Mandatory Counseling, Waiting Periods Prior To Abortion Useless, (Yet Another) Study Shows
11:50 am, May 10th | by Amy Tennery
Less than two months ago Utah Governor Gary Herbert signed a new law requiring a 72-hour waiting period before all abortions. The move, his staff said at the time, “appropriately allows a woman who’s facing that decision to fully weigh her options.” But really, now, do women need three days to make double, extra, super-duper sure we want a medical procedure that we already decided we wanted? A new report suggests no.
New evidence shows that most women who seek abortions, generally speaking, know what they’re getting into — no “counseling” or waiting required. And since the whole “abortion” issue isn’t exactly shrouded in secrecy, this probably shouldn’t come as a huge shock to anybody.
The study, led by a team of researchers from UC San Francisco and the University of Missouri, gleaned data from the intake forms from 5,109 women seeking 5,387 abortions at a U.S. clinic in 2008. The forms asked women to rate their confidence in their choice before receiving counseling from a doctor. The results? Around 87 percent of women seeking abortions said they had “high confidence in their decision before receiving counseling,” according to the report, which will be released next month in the Guttmacher Institute’s journal.
The report also showed that women who felt less confident in their decision to terminate their pregnancies tended to be younger, less educated and “[had] general difficulty making decisions,” conditions that affect their certainty regardless.
These stats then would suggest that mandatory counseling (“Do you know what an abortion is? Are you sure you’re sure you know what an abortion is!?”) isn’t helpful. Should women be allowed to ask every question under the sun about their procedure if they want to? Of course! But this study would suggest there’s no medical necessity to demand women seek counseling. Or, as the study abstract puts it:
Regulations requiring state-approved information or waiting periods may not meet the complex needs of all women. Instead, women may benefit more from interactions with trained staff who can assess and respond to their individual needs.
Are there problems with this study? Of course. For starters, it covers just 5,387 abortions in the U.S. in 2008 — a mere sliver of the 1.21 million abortions performed during that year, according to Guttmacher Institute data:
And, as long as we’re being picky, the report’s abstract also indicates that data was collected at “one U.S. clinic.” One would imagine that certain geographical mores (*ehem* Utah) would influence the results quite a bit.
But this report — wherever the data was collected — does prove something valuable. At the bare minimum, we need to rethink the widespread proliferation of mandatory waiting periods and counseling in states across the country. To continue to argue that these forestalling measures against abortion are anything other than, well, forestalling measures is ludicrous.
Even more astonishingly, it’s been proven over and over that these laws have “little impact on birth and abortion rates.” You’re not even changing anyone’s mind, guys.
So, sure, we’d love to chat, doc. Just maybe don’t force things on us.