Most Women Don’t Regret Abortions. Why Would They?

A new study shows that the vast majority of women don't regret their abortion, providing data for what a lot of us already know.
abortion, regret, michelle williams, crisis pregnancy clinics, pro choice, anti abortion, pro life, complications,
PhotoAlto/Michele Constantini via Getty Images

Earlier this month, there was a conservative comic strip circulating on Twitter. It depicted actress Michelle Williams in the creamy tangerine gown she wore to the Golden Globes, cradling her Best Actress award with a sad look on her face. “I won!!” the cartoon Williams says, while a mother beside her holding an infant tells her, “No, you didn’t”—a clear swipe at the Best Actress winner’s acceptance speech, where she expressed gratitude for having been able to get an abortion when she was younger.


Not only is the strip just plain factually incorrect—Williams has a daughter, you dummies!!—but it reflects a kind of backward thinking about abortion that assumes that a lot of the people who get one eventually regret their decision, which is equally untrue. A new study published Sunday in the journal Social Science and Medicine found that the vast majority of people who’ve gotten an abortion don’t regret their choice.

The study surveyed about 1,000 women, following up 11 times over the course of five years, making it one of the largest studies about women’s emotions about their own abortions ever, per CNN. Eighty-four percent of participants had either positive emotions about their decision to have an abortion after five years, or no feelings about their decision at all. Only 6 percent expressed primarily negative emotions. This builds on previous research that found that an overwhelming majority of women feel very little about their abortion as time goes on, except relief.

This kind of data is necessary, as it counters a prevailing narrative that women won’t know how they’ll feel about having an abortion until they actually have one. That’s an infantilizing argument, predicated on the idea that women aren’t capable of making important medical decisions for themselves. The idea that someone will regret not having a kid they don’t want or know they can’t afford is nothing more than a scare tactic pushed by the federally funded, faith-based anti-choice clinics that have sprung up all over the United States in an attempt to lure people out of getting abortions and are largely responsible for spreading this idea that a lot of women regret their abortions. Various state laws also encourage this line of thinking; 18 states require people seeking an abortion to go through counseling, while 27 states have a mandated waiting period, usually about 24 hours.

But as this new study (and studies before it) shows, regret is uncommon. So, why even bother asking the question in the first place?

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