Sexuality Research and Social Policy

, Volume 15, Issue 4, pp 452–463 | Cite as

Attitudes Toward Abortion After Receiving vs. Being Denied an Abortion in the USA

  • Katie WoodruffEmail author
  • M. Antonia Biggs
  • Heather Gould
  • Diana Greene Foster


The US public attitudes toward abortion have been studied extensively, but little is known about these attitudes among women who seek abortion. This mixed-methods study explores women’s attitudes about abortion after receiving or being denied an abortion. Data are from the Turnaway Study, a prospective, longitudinal study of women seeking abortions at 30 US facilities. Participants presented just before a facility’s gestational limit and received abortions or just beyond the limit and were denied abortions. Using mixed effects logistic regression, we assessed 812 participants’ attitudes about abortion over 5 years. At 5 years after abortion seeking, we conducted in-depth interviews with 31 participants; this analysis includes the comments of 19 participants who discussed their abortion attitudes in those interviews. We find that 6 months after abortion seeking, nearly all women supported abortion legality in all (80%) or some (18%) situations, yet 20% also believed abortion is morally wrong. Women denied an abortion were significantly less likely to support the legal right to abortion at 6 months (62%) and 4.5 years (77%) after abortion seeking than women who had received a near-limit abortion (78 and 88%, respectively). In open-ended interviews, women expressed nuanced views, including reporting increased empathy for others facing an unwanted pregnancy. Women’s own reproductive experiences impact their views on abortion. Distinguishing between morality and legality of abortion is critical in understanding abortion attitudes.


Abortion Attitudes Public opinion Political attitudes Abortion policy 



The authors thank Rana Barar and Sandy Stonesifer for study coordination and management; Mattie Boehler-Tatman, Janine Carpenter, Undine Darney, Ivette Gomez, Selena Phipps, Brenly Rowland, Claire Schreiber, and Danielle Sinkford for conducting interviews; Michaela Ferrari, Debbie Nguyen, and Elisette Weiss for project support; and Jay Fraser and John Neuhaus for statistical and database assistance; all the participating providers for their assistance with recruitment; and all study participants. The authors also thank the anonymous reviewers for valuable comments that materially improved this work.


This study was supported by research and institutional grants from the Wallace Alexander Gerbode Foundation, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, and an anonymous foundation. The first author was partially supported by National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) grant #T32 AA007240, “Graduate Training in Alcohol Problems: Alcohol-Related Disparities.”

Compliance with Ethical Standards

All the research described in this study received ethical approval from the University of California, San Francisco Committee of Human Research, and all procedures were performed in accordance with the ethical standards of this committee.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Public HealthUniversity of California, BerkeleyBerkeleyUSA
  2. 2.Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health (ANSIRH)University of California, San FranciscoOaklandUSA

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