What Happens to Turnaways?

[Content Note: Reproductive coercion.]

Over at io9, Annalee Newitz has a great piece on a new study that investigated what happens to turnaways—women who are denied abortions. Although there have been lots of discredited claims about what happens to women who get abortions—mental illness, trauma and shame, breast cancer—there has been precious little research about what happens to women want abortions but can't access them. [NB: Not only women need access to abortion, but I am using the term advisedly here because other people with uteri have not been studied, although it is probably safe to assume the outcomes would be very similar.]

The new longitudinal study, which was done by public health researchers at the UC San Francisco group Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health (ANSIRH), "reveals what happens to their economic position, health, and relationship status after seeking an abortion and being denied it."
[ANSIRH] used data from 956 women who sought abortions at 30 different abortion clinics around the U.S. 182 of them were turned away. The researchers, led by Diana Greene Foster, followed and did intensive interviews with these women, who ran the gamut of abortion experiences. Some obtained abortions easily, for some it was a struggle to get them, and some were denied abortions because their pregnancies had lasted a few days beyond the gestational limits of their local clinics. Two weeks ago, the research group presented what they'd learned after two years of the planned five-year, longitudinal "Turnaway Study" at the recent American Public Health Association conference in San Francisco.
Their discoveries will not surprise anyone who has a passing acquaintance with the realities of reproductive healthcare: Women who are forced to carry to term pregnancies they do not want are more likely to face a greater health risk from giving birth, more likely to stay or end up in poverty, and more likely to stay in a relationship with an abusive partner.

If you look at all this data together, a new picture emerges of abortion and how the state might want to handle it. To prevent women from having to rely on public assistance, abortions should be made more widely available. In addition, there is strong evidence that making abortions available will allow women to be healthier, with brighter economic outlooks. By turning women away when they seek abortions, we risk keeping both women and their children in poverty — and, possibly, in harm's way from domestic violence.
State-sanctioned reproductive coercion has demonstrable negative consequences for women. We need to fundamentally change our national conversation about abortion in this country to center that fact, so anti-choicers (and their Oh So Eminently Reasonable abettors) cannot continue to get away with framing abortion as a simple difference of opinion.

Further, every time someone who identifies as "pro-life" defends their inherently violent position on the basis that they value "the sanctity of human life," by which they mean the potential life of fetuses, we need to vigorously challenge why it is they do not appear to believe that women's lives, bodies, and free will are not sacred.

Because denying women bodily agency, increasing their risk of harm, consigning them to poverty, and forcing them to be dependent on abusive partners does not suggest evidence of an unyielding belief in the sanctity of women's lives.

That is, in fact, the opposite of a respect for life, if the definition of "life" is to have any meaning at all.

[H/T to @silveraspen.]

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