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Perceived abortion stigma and psychological well-being over five years after receiving or being denied an abortion.

  • Author(s): Biggs, M
  • Brown, Katherine
  • Foster, Diana
  • et al.

OBJECTIVE: To prospectively assess perceptions of abortion stigma after receiving or being denied an abortion over 5 years, the factors associated with perceived abortion stigma, and the effects of perceived abortion stigma on psychological well-being. METHODS: We recruited people seeking abortion from 30 facilities across the US, and interviewed them by phone one week post-abortion seeking, then semiannually for 5 years. We used adjusted mixed effects regression analyses to examine the abortion stigma trajectories of those who obtained an abortion near a facilitys gestational age limit (Near-limits) compared to those denied an abortion because they were just over the limit and carried their pregnancies to term (Turnaway-births). RESULTS: Of the 956 people recruited, we removed 28 due to ineligibility or missing data, leaving a final sample of 928. In unadjusted analyses, at one-week post-abortion seeking, over half of those seeking abortion perceived that if others knew they had sought an abortion, they would be looked down upon at least a little bit by people close to them (60%) or by people in their community (56%). In longitudinal adjusted analyses, people denied an abortion and who carried their pregnancies to term (Turnaway-birth group) reported significantly lower baseline perceived abortion stigma from people close to them (-0.38; 95% CI, -0.59, -0.16) and from people in their community (0.30; 95% CI, -0.52, -0.08), than Near-limits, differences that remained statistically significant for 1.5 years. Overall perceived abortion stigma declined significantly (p < .001) for both study groups. High perceived abortion stigma at baseline was associated with higher odds of experiencing psychological distress years later (adjusted Odds Ratio, 3.98; 95% CI, 1.39, 11.37). CONCLUSIONS: Most people considering abortion perceive some abortion stigma, which is associated with psychological distress years later.

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