Trish Wilson, a reproductive rights activist, posted on her blog last week about a small study that was published this summer about emotional reactions after abortion. The study was done in Sweden and involved 58 women. Wilson, and several other reproductive rights activists, including the authors of the study, conclude from the study that "most women do not experience emotional distress after an abortion".
Leaving aside much larger studies whose findings contradict this small study (look under research citations on the right-hand rail), what strikes me about this study is that 12 of the 58 women they interviewed reported "severe distress" immediately after the abortion. That's about 20 percent. If 20% of American women experience "severe distress" immediately after an abortion, that's a lot of women.
The Swedish study followed up with these women four months and a year after their abortion and found that most women were coping well. What does this mean for the 12 women who experienced "severe distress" immediately after the abortion? The study doesn't say. It's a matter of degree. If I felt suicidal after an abortion and a year later these feelings had diminished, would I report that I was coping?
A write-up of the research notes:
The women who said they experienced no post-abortion distress had indicated prior to the procedure that they opted not to give birth because they "prioritized work, studies, and/or existing children," according to the study.
Why did the other women have abortions?
I hope that reproductive rights activists will someday, when they think about this study, allow their thoughts to linger with empathy on those twelve women and their severe distress. And may they allow themselves a compassionate curiosity about those women who were aborting for some reason other than "prioritizing work, studies and/or existing children."