Study: Women Denied Abortions More Likely to Suffer Domestic Violence and Be on Public Assistance
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— Anti-abortion advocates often claim that women who abort are more likely to develop drug problems. However, the study suggests that that is not the case; abortion did not increase the risk of drug use.
— One year later, those denied an abortion were significantly more likely to have experienced domestic violence in the past six months and significantly less likely to rate their relationship with their child’s father as good or very good. At the study’s baseline, there were no differences in these areas between the two groups.
Some cautionary notes about these findings: first, they are not the final results. Second, they have not yet been published in a peer-reviewed journal, so it’s possible they may not past muster scientifically.
Third, as is the case with every social science study, it is not necessarily clear whether the outcomes are the result of causation or correlation. The study’s methodology appears to be sound; the sample size is large, and according to researchers, there were no notable observed differences between the control group (those who got an abortion) vs. the experimental group (those who didn’t). Nevertheless, there is reason to wonder whether there were in fact significantunobserved differences between the two groups. Women who are unable to organize themselves to get an abortion before it’s too late may be suffering from more financial or emotional problems than those who get one in time.
It’s also possible that they may feel more ambivalent about their decision to abort in the first place. If any of these differences exist at the outset, then the worse outcomes for the women who were denied abortion could be due to those pre-existing factors, and not the denial of abortion in and of itself. There are statistical techniques that researchers can use to control for observed and unobserved differences, but in the end separating correlation from causation is always a thorny issue. You can never know what would have happened to the turned away women in a counterfactual universe where they were able to get the abortions they needed.
Those caveats aside, the study may well prove to be the largest and best study of its kind we get, and its findings appear to be valid and reliable. In that light, the results are illuminating, and alarming. The women who were denied abortions fared significantly less well on virtually all fronts. One of the most basic and most powerful tenets of feminism is that, contra Justice Kennedy’s insulting paternalism, women themselves are the best judge of what is good for them. These study findings strongly support that conclusion; women who received abortions did much better than those who were denied abortions against their will. This suggests that if the women had received the abortions they sought, they would have fared better as well. Trusting women is not only common sense, it makes excellent public policy sense as well.