The impact of induced abortion on women's physical, mental and psychosocial health
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Background: Millions of women in the United States seek out an abortion each year and about one in three women will have obtained an abortion within her reproductive lifetime. Abortion affects millions of women and although it is a highly controversial subject, there is a universal concern for women’s health. Currently, mandatory data reporting services do not exist in the United States, making it difficult for researchers to comprehensively study the impact of abortion on women’s health. Methods: A review of the relevant legal and medical literature was completed in an attempt to present the physical, mental and psychosocial health effects of induced abortion on women. Results: Early pregnancy termination is safe for women relative to other common medical procedures, but is a risk factor for future pregnancy complications such as pre-term birth, placenta previa and low birth weight. Correlative studies have found increasing evidence that pregnancy termination is associated with psychological distress and may be related to increased substance abuse and other harmful behaviors. Legislature and social stigma surrounding abortion and non-marital pregnancy has noticeable effects on women’s mental health, sexual behavior, contraceptive use and relationships. Conclusion: Public discourse on abortion generally centers on a women’s right to choose versus a fetal right to life, however the aspect of women’s health should also be considered in the discussion. Future abortion legislation must be informed by the medical literature. Currently, there is no rigorous method of data collection for abortion statistics, which can make it difficult to study its effect. Policies vary so widely across the country, that it can be burdensome for women experiencing crisis pregnancies to make informed decisions for their health. There is evidence to suggest that there are negative long-term physical effects of previously induced abortions on subsequent pregnancies. Abortion can also have negative psychological impacts on women, which can be compounded by inadequate pre-abortion counseling. While some studies show no difference between long-term stress levels of women who chose abortion compared to women who carried unintended pregnancy to term, more research comparing the two outcomes could shed light on the issue. Abortion legality and practice may also have negative psychosocial effects on relationships, sexual behavior and perpetuate or be affected by stigmas. This project encourages the continuation of academic inquiry into all aspects of the effects of abortion on women’s health, particularly in the realms of mental and psychosocial impact where it is more difficult to establish a causative relationship between variables.