The Turnaway Study: Ten Years, a Thousand Women, and the Consequences of Having—or Being Denied—an Abortion.

November 10, 2020

Reviewed by Sheila Spear
MidCoast GRR!


Next time you hear someone claim that abortion restrictions will make women safer, reach for this book. One of the politicians who has pursued legislation to restrict access to abortion is Ohio’s Jim Buchy. When asked why he thought women wanted an abortion, his answer underscores the need to extend our understanding and knowledge.

“Well, there’s probably a lot of reasons – I, I’m not a woman, so I can’t … I’m thinking now. If I’m a woman, why would I want to get … Some of it has to do with economics. A lot of it has to do with economics. I don’t know. I’ve never … It’s a question I’ve never even thought about.”

He’d never even thought about it! I was blown away by that statement. But I am so grateful that Diane Foster did more than think about it and spent much of ten years talking with women who faced unwanted pregnancies. Amongst the reasons Jim Buchy and his ilk don’t bother to find out about having a baby when one is not ready, being in an abusive relationship, or struggling to provide for existing children or complete educational or career plans.

Foster’s research sought to find out what happens when a woman seeking an abortion is turned away. The women in the study had all come to a clinic just before or after the clinic’s deadline for providing legal abortions. Sometimes just a few days determined whether or not they would be turned away.

Unlike previous studies that compared outcomes for women who had abortions with those who gave birth, many of whom welcomed their pregnancies, all of those in this study were women who had wanted to terminate their pregnancies.

Foster’s study worked with nearly 1,000 women with unwanted pregnancies to explore either abortion or birth outcomes in each case. Interviews conducted every six months with each woman over six years found no evidence that abortion is harmful to women. Rather the outcomes – physical, psychological, financial, romantic, familial – showed that the women who received the abortion were either as well or better off than the women who were denied the abortion. In fact, there were significant differences in long-term outcomes; those denied an abortion were more likely to suffer lasting physical health consequences. And 95% of the women reported that having an abortion was the right decision.

Each study chapter is followed by an individual profile, providing a depth and emotional connection with the study’s women. They also make clear the complexity of decisions women make about pregnancy, childbearing, and their families. There is much here for legislators like Jim Buchy to consider and many insights into women’s lives as they face the decision to bear or not bear a child.

Scribner NY 2020 |  ISBN 978-1-9821-4156-1

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