They’re poorer. They’re less likely to leave abusive relationships. Their health suffers. In other words, women who don’t want to continue pregnancies probably know their own lives better than politicians.
The women in the Turnaway Study were in comparable economic positions at the time they sought abortions. In the Turnaway group, 45% were on public assistance and two-thirds had household incomes below the federal poverty level. One of the main reasons women cite for wanting to abort is money, and based on the outcomes for the turnaways, it seems they are right.
Most of the women who were denied an abortion, 86%, were living with their babies a year later. Only 11% had put them up for adoption. Also a year later, they were far more likely to be on public assistance — 76% of the turnaways were on the dole, as opposed to 44% of those who got abortions. 67% percent of the turnaways were below the poverty line (vs. 56% of the women who got abortions), and only 48% had a full time job (vs. 58% of the women who got abortions).
Pro-life Republicans, you will remember, are very hostile to welfare spending (as are some Democrats).
One of the most striking aspects of this study is the domestic violence issue. Women who were refused abortions were more likely to experience domestic violence than women who had abortions — not because they were more likely to get involved with an abuser, but because being refused an abortion meant they were less likely to leave him. Abortion, simply, was one route that women were able to use to get control of their lives, and that enabled them to more easily leave an abusive partner. Once a child was involved, leaving was predictably more difficult. For all the admonishments to “protect your child,” it’s worth noting that abusers routinely threaten (and often carry out) violence against children if the mother leaves; a shared child also means that leaving will require protracted court battles and custody issues and the chance of losing your kid to your abuser or the state. The United States is a country where rapists are given custody and visitation rights to their children. We live in a country where being battered is the most common cause of injury to women. And seventy-five percent of victims are killed when they attempt to leave the relationship or after the relationship has ended. It’s obvious why a woman with a new child might be less confident in leaving an abusive situation.
Turnaways were more likely to stay in a relationship with an abusive partner than women who got abortions. A year after being denied an abortion, 7% reported an incident of domestic violence in the last six months. 3% of women who received abortions reported domestic violence in the same time period. Green emphasized that this wasn’t because the turnaways were more likely to get into abusive relationships. It was simply that getting abortions allowed women to get out of such relationships more easily. So it’s likely that these numbers actually reflect a dropoff in domestic violence for women who get abortions, rather than a rise among turnaways.
This pattern of violence is also part of a larger pattern that shows turnaways are more likely to remain in relationships with the fathers of their children. Obviously, this isn’t always a good thing, as the violence statistics reveal. But even in the vast majority of cases where violence isn’t involved, Greene noted that these men aren’t living with the turnaways. The researchers asked women about cohabiting with partners, and found that men were no more likely to live with a turnaway who’d borne their children than they were to live with a woman who had an abortion. “The man doesn’t stick around just because you have the baby — that’s the crude way of putting it,” Green said.
Finally, abortion caused no mental health complications and no major physical complications. The same was not true of childbirth:
We find physical health complications are more common and severe following birth (38% experience limited activity, average 10 days) compared to abortion (24% limited activity, average 2.7 days). There were no severe complications after abortion; after birth complications included seizure, fractured pelvis, infection and hemorrhage. We find no differences in chronic health conditions at 1 week or one year after seeking abortion.
Childbirth is often physically difficult; it’s often physically impairing and sometimes deadly. It’s not something that should be entered into by way of state force. When women are forced by the state to continue pregnancies they don’t want and know they can’t handle, they’re worse off in the long term. And after the baby is born, there’s no team of “pro-life” politicians rooting for them.