The Botched Turnaway Study: Abortion, Pregnancy & Mental Health

/ Commentary

A recent "Turnaway Study" not only had the audacity to claim abortion is not associated with an increase in mental health problems, but that women who are denied abortions are at a much greater risk for mental health problems than those who carried their pregnancy to term.

This is unequivocally false.

As we recently covered, post-abortive women have a 104% greater risk of suicide, whereas women who give birth have a 63% lower risk of suicide.

The Turnaway Studies recruited women from January 1, 2008 through December 2010. After three years researchers followed up with the women selected and published the 2015 study while the study published in 2017 covered a five year follow up with the participants.

All three articles were commissioned by the Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health (ANSRH) at the University of San Francisco, California. All of the experts who contributed to this study have supported abortion and birth-control programs in the past.

The study was hailed by Raegan McDonald-Mosley, the Chief Medical Officer of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America saying, “This research shows, yet again, why politicians should not play doctor.”

One needs only to read the study to examine the various limitations to the quality of research. Here are the major limitations that prove the reader should not accept the results of this study as solid fact.

  1. The study did not include the settings of the abortions. For example, it only mentioned the women were recruited from 30 abortion clinics in 21 states, but did not name the states or the cities.
  2. There was no criteria regarding which abortion clinics to recruit women from for the research.
  3. Of the 3,016 asked to participate, only 1,132 (37.5%) consented to participate, which means the overwhelming majority (62.5%) refused to participate.
  4. The researchers refused to publish the questionnaire.  
  5. The team lacked the ability to control for a history of previous mental health conditions.
  6. Rates of participation continued to decline significantly throughout the study. Of the 1,132 consenting to participate, only 956 completed the baseline interview. Of the 956, only 558 women remained in the study until the last interview in January 2016.
  7. As part of their baseline data, they included data from a 2013 study which claimed  95% of women did not regret their abortion. However, this data set was heavily flawed. In fact, it was recorded only one week after the abortion, whereas a longer longitudinal study would have been more accurate such as the study by Maureen Curley of the University of Florida and Celeste Johnston of McGill University in Montreal which yielded results demonstrating “persistent distress” reaching as high as 50% of the 89 participants.

Since their baseline data is inconsistent with other high-quality studies, it is hardly a cause to change public policy on abortion in favor of increased access to abortion, for which the ANSRH lobbies.

In addition to these methodological errors, the study was heavily funded by three organizations, the David and Lucille Packard Foundation, William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, Wallace Alexander Gerbode Foundation who make no secret of their abortion support.

The David and Lucille Packard Foundation states as a part of its Population and Reproductive Health Program, they are “committed” to advocating for “reproductive health and rights, with a focus on high quality information and services.” Similarly, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation in their March 2016 strategy titled, “U.S. and Reproductive Rights Strategy,” stated one of their main goals is to “ensure access to abortion,” and they say their organization, “has a long history of supporting abortion rights, which are essential to women’s autonomy and opportunity.”

The Wallace Alexander Gerbode Foundation is not any more neutral than either of the former. In the year 2015 alone, their annual report confirms the allocation of a total of  $230,000 to various pro-abortion choice organizations.

The Turnaway study is hardly an investigative study. It is imperative to evaluate research for yourself to find true motives behind studies which often push the abortion agenda


The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official position of Human Defense Initiative.

The Botched Turnaway Study: Abortion, Pregnancy & Mental Health
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