Does abortion reduce self-esteem and life satisfaction?
This study aims to assess the effects of obtaining an abortion versus being denied an abortion on self-esteem and life satisfaction.
We present the first 2.5 years of a 5-year longitudinal telephone-interview study that follows 956 women who sought an abortion from 30 facilities across the USA. We examine the self-esteem and life satisfaction trajectories of women who sought and received abortions just under the facility’s gestational age limit, of women who sought and received abortions in their first trimester of pregnancy, and of women who sought abortions just beyond the facility gestational limit and were denied an abortion. We use adjusted mixed effects linear regression analyses to assess whether the trajectories of women who sought and obtained an abortion differ from those who were denied one.
Women denied an abortion initially reported lower self-esteem and life satisfaction than women who sought and obtained an abortion. For all study groups, except those who obtained first trimester abortions, self-esteem and life satisfaction improved over time. The initially lower levels of self-esteem and life satisfaction among women denied an abortion improved more rapidly reaching similar levels as those obtaining abortions at 6 months to one year after abortion seeking. For women obtaining first trimester abortions, initially higher levels of life satisfaction remained steady over time.
There is no evidence that abortion harms women’s self-esteem or life satisfaction in the short term.
- Diener, E. (1984). Subjective well-being. Psychological Bulletin, 95(3), 542–575. CrossRef
- Crocker, J., Luhtanen, R., Blaine, B., & Broadnax, S. (1994). Collective self-esteem and psychological well-being among White, Black, and Asian college-students. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 20(5), 503–513. CrossRef
- Taormina, R. J., & Gao, J. H. (2013). Maslow and the motivation hierarchy: Measuring satisfaction of the needs. American Journal of Psychology, 126(2), 155–177. CrossRef
- Trzesniewski, K. H., Donnellan, M. B., Moffitt, T. E., Robins, R. W., Poulton, R., & Caspi, A. (2006). Low self-esteem during adolescence predicts poor health, criminal behavior, and limited economic prospects during adulthood. Developmental Psychology, 42(2), 381–390. CrossRef
- Donnellan, M. B., Trzesniewski, K. H., Robins, R. W., Moffitt, T. E., & Caspi, A. (2005). Low self-esteem is related to aggression, antisocial behavior, and delinquency. Psychological Science, 16(4), 328–335. CrossRef
- Diener, E., & Chan, M. Y. (2011). Happy people live longer: Subjective well-being contributes to health and longevity. Appl Psychol Health Well Being, 3(1), 1–43. CrossRef
- Luhmann, M., Lucas, R. E., Eid, M., & Diener, E. (2013). The prospective effect of life satisfaction on life events. Psychol Personal Sci, 4(1), 39–45. CrossRef
- Major, B., Appelbaum, M., Beckman, L., Dutton, M. A., Russo, N. F., & West, C. (2009). Abortion and mental health: Evaluating the evidence. American Psychologist, 64(9), 863–890. CrossRef
- Charles, V. E., Polis, C. B., Sridhara, S. K., & Blum, R. W. (2008). Abortion and long-term mental health outcomes: A systematic review of the evidence. Contraception, 78(6), 436–450. CrossRef
- Robinson, G. E., Stotland, N. L., Russo, N. F., Lang, J. A., & Occhiogrosso, M. (2009). Is there an “abortion trauma syndrome”? Critiquing the evidence. Harv Rev Psychiatry, 17(4), 268–290. CrossRef
- National Collaborating Centre for Mental Health at the Royal College of Psychiatrists. (2011). Induced abortion and mental health: A systematic review of the mental health outcomes of induced abortion, including their prevalence and associated factors. London: Royal College of Psychiatrists.
- Gonzales v. Carhart, 550 US 124. (2007). section IV-A.
- Bailey, P. E., Bruno, Z. V., Bezerra, M. F., Queiroz, I., Oliveira, C. M., & Chen-Mok, M. (2001). Adolescent pregnancy 1 year later: The effects of abortion vs. motherhood in Northeast Brazil. J Adolesc Health off publ Soc Adolesc Med, 29(3), 223–232. CrossRef
- Zabin, L. S., Hirsch, M. B., & Emerson, M. R. (1989). When urban adolescents choose abortion: Effects on education, psychological status and subsequent pregnancy. Family Planning Perspectives, 21(6), 248–255. CrossRef
- Russo, N. F., & Zierk, K. L. (1992). Abortion, childbearing, and women well-being. Prof Psychol Res Pr, 23(4), 269–280. CrossRef
- Major, B., Cozzarelli, C., Cooper, M. L., Zubek, J., Richards, C., Wilhite, M., et al. (2000). Psychological responses of women after first-trimester abortion. Archives of General Psychiatry, 57, 777–784. CrossRef
- Steinberg, J. R., Becker, D., & Henderson, J. T. (2011). Does the outcome of a first pregnancy predict depression, suicidal ideation, or lower self-esteem? Data from the National Comorbidity Survey. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 81(2), 193–201. CrossRef
- Warren, J. T., Harvey, S. M., & Henderson, J. T. (2010). Do depression and low self-esteem follow abortion among adolescents? Evidence from a national study. Perspect Sex Reprod Health, 42(4), 230–235. CrossRef
- Zabin, L. S., Hirsch, M. B., & Emerson, M. R. (1989). When urban adolescents choose abortion–effects on education, psychological status and subsequent pregnancy. Family Planning Perspectives, 21(6), 248–255. CrossRef
- Broen, A. N., Moum, T., Bodtker, A. S., & Ekeberg, O. (2005). The course of mental health after miscarriage and induced abortion: A longitudinal, five-year follow-up study. BMC Medicine, 3, 18. CrossRef
- Gould, H., Foster, D. G., Perrucci, A. C., Barar, R. E., & Roberts, S. C. (2013). Predictors of abortion counseling receipt and helpfulness in the United States. Womens Health Issues, 23(4), e249–e255. CrossRef
- Upadhyay, U. D., Weitz, T. A., Jones, R. K., Barar, R. E., & Foster, D. G. (2013). Denial of abortion because of provider gestational age limits in the United States. American Journal of Public Health, 103(9).
- Dobkin, L., Gould, H., Barar, R., Ferrari, M., Weiss, E., & DG, F. (2013). Implementing a prospective study of women seeking abortion in the United States: Understanding and overcoming barriers to recruitment. Womens Health Issues.
- Gould, H., Perrucci, A., Barar, R., Sinkford, D., & Foster, D. G. (2012). Patient education and emotional support practices in abortion care facilities in the United States. Women’s Health Issues, 22(4), 359–364. CrossRef
- Robins, R. W., Hendin, H. M., & Trzesniewski, K. H. (2001). Measuring global self-esteem: Construct validation of a single-item measure and the Rosenberg self-esteem scale. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 27(2), 151–161. CrossRef
- Diener, E., Emmons, R. A., Larsen, R. J., & Griffin, S. (1985). The satisfaction with life scale. Journal of Personality Assessment, 49(1), 71–75. CrossRef
- McCulloch, C. (2008). Joint modelling of mixed outcome types using latent variables. Statistical Methods in Medical Research, 17(1), 53–73. CrossRef
- Pazol, K., Zane, S., Parker, W. Y., Hall, L. R., Gamble, S. B., Hamdan, S., et al. (2011). Abortion surveillance–United States, 2007 MMWR. Surveillance summaries : Morbidity and mortality weekly report. Surveill Summ/CDC, 60(1), 1–42.
- Robins, R. W., Trzesniewski, K. H., Tracy, J. L., Gosling, S. D., & Potter, J. (2002). Global self-esteem across the life span. Psychology and Aging, 17(3), 423–434. CrossRef
- Biggs, M. A., Gould, H., & Foster, D. G. (2013). Understanding why women seek abortions in the US. BMC Women’s Health, 13(1), 29. CrossRef
- Versmessen, H., Vinh-Hung, V., Van Parijs, H., Miedema, G., Voordeckers, M., Adriaenssens, N., et al. (2012). Health-related quality of life in survivors of stage I-II breast cancer: Randomized trial of post-operative conventional radiotherapy and hypofractionated tomotherapy. BMC Cancer, 12, 495. CrossRef
- Stover, A. M., Mayer, D. K., Muss, H., Wheeler, S. B., Lyons, J. C., & Reeve, B. B. (2014). Quality of life changes during the pre- to postdiagnosis period and treatment-related recovery time in older women with breast cancer. Cancer. doi:10.1002/cncr.28649.
- Pavot, W., & Diener, E. (1993). Review of the satisfaction with life scale. Psychological Assessment, 5(2), 164–172. CrossRef
- Galea, S., & Tracy, M. (2007). Participation rates in epidemiologic studies. Annals of Epidemiology, 17(9), 643–653. CrossRef
- Morton, L. M., Cahill, J., & Hartge, P. (2006). Reporting participation in epidemiologic studies: A survey of practice. American Journal of Epidemiology, 163(3), 197–203. CrossRef
- Jones, R. K., & Kavanaugh, M. L. (2011). Changes in abortion rates between 2000 and 2008 and lifetime incidence of abortion. Obstetrics and Gynecology, 117(6), 1358–1366. CrossRef
- Jones, R. K., & Finer, L. B. (2012). Who has second-trimester abortions in the United States? Contraception, 85(6), 544–551. CrossRef
- Rocca, C. H., Kimport, K., Gould, H., & Foster, D. G. (2013). Women’s emotions one week after receiving or being denied an abortion in the United States. Perspectives on Sexual Reproductive Health, 122–131.
- Does abortion reduce self-esteem and life satisfaction?
- Open Access
- Available under Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.
Quality of Life Research
- Print ISSN
- Online ISSN
- Springer International Publishing
- Additional Links
- Life satisfaction
- Industry Sectors
- Author Affiliations
- 1. Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health, University of California, San Francisco, San Francisco, CA, USA
- 3. 1330 Broadway, Suite 1100, Oakland, CA, 94612, USA
- 2. Department of Psychiatry, University of California, San Francisco, San Francisco, CA, USA