Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Utah's 72-hour waiting period prevents abortions

Photo via Pro-Life Utah

Pro-choice author Christina Cauterucci has an article up at Slate entitled Study: Utah’s 72-Hour Waiting Period Doesn’t Dissuade Women From Having Abortions. It is an excellent example of "Headline Contradicted By Actual Article,"* because buried in the fourth paragraph is a testimonial from a woman who said "About two days after the [information] appointment, I canceled the [abortion] appointment. I couldn’t do it."

Two days is, you'll note, more time than is allowed under the typical 24-hour waiting period found constitutional in Casey. And obviously, in a state with no waiting period at all (which is what Cauterucci wants), there's a good chance this abortion would not have been prevented.

But let's take a few steps back.
Researchers from Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health at the University of California, San Francisco surveyed 500 women presenting for abortion information visits at four abortion providers [in Utah] in 2013 and 2014; 309 completed a follow-up survey three weeks later.
The fact that nearly two-fifths of the study participants disappeared made me want to dig deeper. It's worth noting that the journal in which this study appeared—Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health—is operated by the Guttmacher Institute, a pro-abortion think tank that makes full text articles freely available when it supports their agenda (here's an example). But this time they used a paywall. My curiosity got the best of me; I sucked it up and paid so you wouldn't have to.

It turns out that the researchers got advance authorization to ask the abortion facility whether participants lost to follow-up had had an abortion. Sadly, they confirmed that seventy-two percent aborted. As for the remaining 28 percent, the researchers believe that some had their abortions at other facilities, because they assume that the non-respondents were no more likely to have rejected abortion than those who followed up.

Moving on to the women who did complete the follow-up survey, eight percent had definitively rejected abortion. (85% aborted; the rest miscarried or were still deciding.) Cauterucci reports that of those who had changed their minds, "the most common reason given was that they’d been conflicted about abortion from the start." That's incorrect. The most common reason given was that they "just couldn't do it," regardless of whether or not they were conflicted from the start.

Women giving this answer fell into three groups. The first group, consisting of 11 women, never wanted abortions. Before receiving informed consent and before the waiting period, they indicated that they wanted to keep their babies. The obvious question of who or what forced them into the waiting room of an abortion facility is left unresolved, but the fact that nearly one in ten study participants reported violence from the father of the baby may have something to do with it. ("Choice" my foot.)

The second group, consisting of 9 women, wanted abortions but expressed some ambivalence on the researcher's scale. And the third group, consisting of 7 women, "had [initially] preferred abortion and had low conflict"—meaning that they had a complete change of heart during the waiting period. Which is, of course, the whole point!

Cauterucci reports that aside from deciding that they "just couldn't do it," the next most common reason for rejecting abortion was financial. Cauterucci omits the third most common reason:
The next most common reason women gave for not having had the abortion was that other people had come through for them. A 30-year-old nulliparous woman said, “My boyfriend got his shit together.” And a 24-year-old, who had had two births, responded, “I talked with my family more about it, and they support me and they are willing to help me.”
That's very encouraging. It would have been informative to know when they came through—right away, or in the 71st hour? The study doesn't say. Regardless, it's an important reminder of the importance of supporting the pregnant mothers in our lives.

The researchers also asked women what the "hardest part" of the waiting period was. About one in five reported just wanting to get it over with, which Cauterucci characterizes as a "tax on the mind." But eight percent reported "questioning the decision" and six percent reported "dwelling on the decision" as the hardest part, which again indicates that women are using the waiting period for its intended purpose.

Returning to Cauterucci's article:
In a statement about the new research, lead author and UCSF assistant professor Sarah Roberts recommended abortion providers offer additional counseling for the minority of women who aren’t sure about their decision or feel personal conflict, rather than states imposing a mandatory waiting period for all women, the majority of whom have already made up their minds.
Additional counseling? Yeah, because the abortion industry's record on informed consent laws to date suggests that they'll totally embrace that idea.

I can already imagine the uproar that would ensue from a requirement that women who express ambivalence in the initial appointment receive a second round of counseling. "You're punishing women for saying how they feel!" Oy vey.

Here's what this really comes down to. Which do you believe is more tragic: the failure to prevent an unwanted abortion that the mother will regret, or a burden on "access" for no-second-guessing abortions? The researchers asked about the cost burden of having to go to the abortion facility twice; the average was $44. Is preventing the abortions of wanted babies worth $44 to you?

The fact that a large contingent of the voting public would answer that question in the negative depresses the hell out of me.

*Credit for this phrase goes to Drew Curtis of and is discussed at length in his book.

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