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Study confirms women have little uncertainty about decision to seek abortion care

Women seeking abortion care are generally more certain about their decision than people seeking other forms of health care, according to a study published in Contraception, Reuters reports.

The study assessed women seeking abortion care in Utah, where a woman is required to come to a clinic for biased counseling then wait three days before she can have an abortion (Doyle, Reuters, 10/13).

Key findings

The researchers surveyed 500 women who presented for the initial visit at four family planning clinics in Utah between October 2013 and April 2014 (Cara, Medical Daily, 10/13). The women's average age was 25. Most of the women were in a relationship with the man involved in the pregnancy. About half of the women had at least one child.

Immediately before the counseling, the women completed a questionnaire that the researchers used to gauge how informed, certain or conflicted the women were about their decision. The researchers found that over 50 percent of the women agreed with every item on a certainty scale, such as the statements, "I know which options are available to me" and "I expect to stick to my decision" (Reuters, 10/13).

According to the study, subgroups that expressed slightly less certainty about their decision included women younger than 19, women who had a religious affiliation and women who believed incorrect information about abortion, such as the claim that there is a link between abortion care and breast cancer.

Sixty-three percent of the women completed follow-up interviews (Medical Daily, 10/13). Of the women who completed follow-up interviews, 89 percent had an abortion, according to the study. The researchers noted that women who obtained abortion care reported lower levels of uncertainty with their decision than the 11 percent of women who remained pregnant.

Discussion

Lead author Lauren Ralph of Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health at the University of California-San Francisco said, "Our finding directly challenges the idea that decision-making on abortion is somehow exceptional and requires additional protection, such as state laws that mandate waiting periods or targeted counseling and whose stated purpose is to prevent women from making an unconsidered decision."

Further, she noted, "Levels of certainty about the decision to have an abortion were comparable to, and often higher than, levels of certainty found in other studies of men and women making other health care decisions like whether to have a mastectomy after a breast cancer diagnosis, undergo prenatal testing after infertility, or have reconstructive knee surgery."

Louise Keogh -- a researcher at the University of Melbourne's Melbourne School of Population and Global Health, who was not part of the study -- was not surprised by the findings. She said the results confirm that mandatory delays and ultrasound viewing requirements are inappropriate practice for abortion care (Reuters, 10/13).