- A new study in Annals of Internal Medicine looked at the long term health outcomes of women who had first-trimester abortions, second-trimester abortions, and those who were denied abortions and gave birth.
- Researchers found that women who wanted but were denied abortions were more likely to report feeling in poor health and having chronic back, abdominal, and pelvic pain.
- There was no significant difference in health between women who had first- or second-trimester abortions.
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As more state officials sign bills to limit or outlaw abortions, the potential short- and long-term risks that come with denying women abortion services are becoming increasingly relevant.
A new study published in Annals of Internal Medicine found evidence that long-term health risks, including chronic pain and headaches, are associated with denying women abortions and having them carry through birth.
“Our study demonstrates how having an abortion isn’t detrimental to women’s health, but being denied one likely is,” Lauren Ralph, the lead author of the study, told INSIDER.
Using data from 30 United States abortion facilities between 2008 and 2010, researchers looked at 874 women who sought abortions. Of those women, 328 had first-trimester abortions, 383 had second-trimester abortions, and 163 were denied abortions and gave birth. The study population included one-third white women, one-third African American women, and one-fifth Hispanic women, and the remaining women were from other ethnic and racial groups.
The researchers asked the women how they would rate their own health and chronic pain, and also looked at whether they developed diabetes, hypertension, asthma, or obesity over a five-year period.
They found that 27% women who were denied abortions reported their overall health declining over that time, while only 20% of women who had abortions reported fair or poor health at the five-year mark.
Women who gave birth were also more likely to have increased chronic headaches and joint pain after giving birth.
The researchers didn’t notice any differences in health between women who had first- and second-trimester abortions. According to the American Pregnancy Association, immediate abortion side effects may include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, spotting, and abdominal pain, but they subside after two to four weeks.
There were caveats to the study. “There’s the notion that there could be [health] impacts from having a child in your life rather than if you chose to have an abortion. The experience of these two groups is very different over those five years,” Ralph said.
For this reason, more research needs to be done to determine how abortions, or the denial of them, could impact women years down the line. Nonetheless, the researchers believe their study is evidence that bills written to deny women abortions in order to protect fetuses may not be taking important health effects into account.
“Our study indicates that women’s longterm health should also be central to the discussion,” Ralph said.
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