Many in the media are asserting that a new study proves women don’t regret abortion ever – but “ever” only means the following five years.
A study published in Social Science & Medicine on January 12 found that by five years after an abortion, “the large majority of women (84%) had either primarily positive emotions or no emotions whatsoever” and just “6% expressed primarily negative emotions.” The media widely covered the study while, at the same time, overlooked the women who say it took them decades to acknowledge their regret after abortion.
CNN’s headline about the study, which was performed by researchers at University of California at San Francisco and examined 667 women, declared, “The majority of women feel relief, not regret, after an abortion, study says.”
“One of the largest studies about women's emotions after an abortion finds most feel relieved,” producer Jen Christensen wrote January 13. She added that the study “builds on previous research” – but failed to address conflicting studies.
According to Rocca, “All the claims that negative emotions will emerge over time, a myth that has persisted for decades without any evidence to substantiate these claims, it's clear, it's just not true.”
But Rocca only had five years of evidence – not five decades.
Salon also relied on Rocca, publishing a piece by her about the data “Debunking the ‘abortion regret’ narrative” on January 13.
Rocca admitted that while some women “do wish they had not had” an abortion, “every major life decision, medical or otherwise, carries with it the risk of regret.”
“As bioethicists have pointed out, some patients regret having heart surgery or seeking a kidney transplant,” she compared. “For that matter, some people regret marrying their high-school sweetheart, or having children.”
Rocca made no effort to hide her support for abortion.
“Access to abortion has clear benefits for both the person seeking care and for society as a whole,” she concluded, before pointing to the “social, economic, and medical good of abortion access.”
Other media, like Vice, appeared to agree. “Most Women Don’t Regret Abortions. Why Would They?” the outlet’s headline read on January 13.
“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,” insisted writer Harron Walker.
Columnist Suzanne Moore sarcastically commented, “Women know themselves! Shock! Women can make the right decisions about their own bodies. Isn’t that amazing?”
The Washington Post’s headline offered more accurate information by highlighting the study’s time period: “Five years after an abortion, most women say they made the right decision.”
Unlike the other outlets, staff writer Ariana Eunjung Cha also pointed out that some have “criticized the Turnaway Study [analyzed by the UCSF researchers] by saying it uses an unrepresentative sample.”
None of the outlets acknowledged or voiced the countless women who say they didn’t realize the harm they suffered from abortion until decades later. The Silent No More Awareness Campaign, an organization dedicated to exposing the pain abortion inflicts, hosts thousands of relevant testimonies online from women who express regret.
Leslie Blackwell, a co-regional coordinator for the campaign in Virginia, told National Review last year that she first became pregnant in 1980, and went on to have “two abortions within two years.” Afterward, she identified as a radical feminist and almost served as a board member of the Virginia League for Planned Parenthood.
She didn’t have a change of heart until 2007 when she says she had a “spiritual epiphany” and realized, “Whoa, I took two of [God’s] precious lives.”
Another woman associated with the campaign, Mary Eisman, discovered she was pregnant at 16. When she had an abortion, she felt like she was “just getting rid of a pregnancy.”
She didn’t begin her healing process, she said, until she turned 42.
Another woman from Washington, named Jenn, wrote on the campaign site that she “carried this secret burden” of abortion for 19 years. Kim from Massachusetts admitted, “I hid it from everyone for about 15 years,” while Fern from Ontario, Canada, said that after she sought two abortions, she “lived a life in denial” and that it wasn’t until 44 years after her first abortion that she realized she “had to deal with these issues.”
“It is my prayer that God will use my painful past to bring hope and healing to others who have suffered,” she concluded. “I would give anything to be able to go back and change those decisions.”
Rocca and many in the media ignore these women’s realities – and the reality that, regardless of regret, abortion always ends a life.