A recent study of women who sought abortions near the gestational limit draws an important (if obvious) conclusion: Denying abortions to women in abusive relationships keeps those women in abusive relationships.

The "Turnaway Study," conducted by demographer Diana Greene Foster, compares three groups of women: those who had first-trimester abortions (90 percent of American women have abortions in the first trimester), those who were able to have abortions just before the gestational limit, and those who were turned away for being too far along in their pregnancies. It found that among women who had experienced relationship violence with the man involved in the pregnancy ("MIP"), the women who were able to terminate saw a decrease in violence in the 2.5 years after the abortion, regardless of when they had the abortion. Women who were not able to terminate and who carried the pregnancy to term saw no decrease in violence.

Terminating pregnancies near the gestation date is relatively rare, and women who do terminate for reasons other than health and fetal abnormalities often face barriers to getting an earlier procedure: lack of insurance coverage, poverty, living in an area where a clinic is far away. Increasingly, extreme abortion restrictions have put the procedure out of reach for many women, shutting clinics across the country and making access particularly difficult for rural women and low-income women. Waiting periods mean a woman has to return to a clinic at least twice to terminate a pregnancy, which can be burdensome for those who don't have paid sick leave or days off, and who may have to drive more than 100 miles to the nearest clinic, not to mention finding child care (the majority of women who have abortions are already mothers) and paying for the procedure itself, which gets more expensive as the pregnancy progresses and can cost upward of $2,000.

Perhaps the most harmful restriction is the Hyde Amendment, which prohibits federal funding from paying for abortions, meaning low-income women who rely on Medicaid for their health care typically have to pay out of pocket. Several states have even tried to expand the reach of Hyde by making it illegal for private insurers to cover abortion care. Since poor women often have to pay out of pocket for abortion, their procedures are often delayed while they scrape together the money to pay for them. And sometimes, they don't save up enough until it's too late, and they're forced to carry the pregnancy to term — a particularly bad outcome for economically vulnerable women whose partners abuse them.

All of that has very real effects on women's lives and their physical health. Intimate partner violence often begins or escalates during pregnancy, and women who experience such violence face "injury, chronic pain, gastrointestinal problems, sexually-transmitted infections, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder," the study says — not to mention death. The study continues, "The fact that women who had babies resulting from unwanted pregnancies had more ongoing physical violence is of particular concern, as the violence can also affect their children. Violence during pregnancy is associated with negative birth outcomes, including low birth weight, pre-term delivery and neonatal death, and children exposed to IPV are at increased risk of emotional and behavioral problems."

In other words, family violence is terrible for women and children. And abortion, for women who want it, can help put women on the path to escaping that violence, while refusing women the right to terminate means they face further victimization.

"Terminating an unwanted pregnancy may allow women to avoid physical violence from the MIP, while having a baby from an unwanted pregnancy appears to result in sustained physical violence over time," the study says.

That's because women who terminate are better able to leave abusive partners, while women who have babies with abusive men are slower to leave and continue to have contact with abusive partners even if they do leave — because they have a child together.

Women know this, and many of the study subjects said they were seeking abortions because they didn't want to bring their child into an abusive home and didn't want to be permanently tied to an abusive man. Sadly, their fears proved correct.

"One of the most striking lessons from this study is how prescient women's reasons for wanting an abortion were," Foster writes on her blog. "It turns out, women who experienced violence before or during their pregnancy and who considered abortion because they feared that having a baby would increase their risk of violence or bind them to an abusive partner, did have reason for concern."

"Those fears were unfortunately borne out in the lived experiences of some of the women who were denied abortions who experience continued violence," she continues. "In other words, these women were right."

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