Biased Guttmacher Study Claims Women Confident of Abortion Decision

Opinion   |   Mailee Smith   |   May 9, 2012   |   7:16PM   |   Washington, DC

In the June publication of “Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health” (a Guttmacher Institute publication), pro-abortion researchers argue in the article Attitudes and Decision Making Among Women Seeking Abortions at One U.S. Clinic that laws requiring that women be given pertinent information before choosing abortion are unnecessary.

But this study contains major flaws: it studies only one abortion clinic; it does not mention the state in which that clinic does business; and it does not indicate whether that state has any informed consent laws.

The study is based entirely on a pre-counseling survey asking women to respond to a number of statements with either “true,” “kind of,” or “false.” For example, one statement was “I am sure of my decision to have an abortion.” Before counseling, 94 percent of women responded with “true.” Five percent of women responded with “kind of”—yet the researchers concluded that these women were “sure” of their abortion decision. Overall, the study found that 87 percent of the woman had high pre-counseling confidence in their decision. But what about the other 13 percent? Shouldn’t 100 percent of women who abort deserve to be “sure” of their decision?

Moreover, the study only considered women’s pre-counseling responses to the survey. It did not indicate how women felt after “counseling” by a clinic staff person. How many women responded with “kind of” after counseling? Of course, because we don’t know in what state the clinic operates, we don’t know what kind of counseling the women received. And “[i]t was not the goal of [the] study to follow the emotional outcomes of women following an abortion.”

We do know that seven percent of women who sought abortions did not have them performed, with at least two percent of women changing their minds before abortion. However, we do not know if that shift in decision was before or after counseling. But considering the clinic studied performs between 5,000 and 6,000 abortions per year, that percentage translates to at least 100 to 120 women (2 percent) changing their mind each year. It does not take a study to know that those 120 children appreciate that decision.

After compiling the data, the researchers “conducted a phone interview with the clinic’s director of counseling to solicit her interpretation of the results.” As to be expected, the clinic employee believed that the results were incorrect, and that more women were confident in their decision than demonstrated by the survey, and that fewer women were unsure in their decision than demonstrated by the survey. The researchers then adopted the clinic employee’s interpretation of the data.

The clinic employee also stated that “the great majority of patients change their responses away from believing that abortion is like killing after discussing their beliefs with a counselor.” I.e., after discussing a belief that she is killing her baby, a woman is persuaded by a pro-abortion “counselor” paid by a clinic which is making money from the abortion that abortion is not “killing.” The clinic employee also stated that “an important aspect of the counseling session is attempting to calm women who are upset by their interactions with antiabortion protestors outside the clinic.”

Contrary to the purpose of the pro-abortion study, these revelations about the “counseling” performed by the clinic emphasize the need for state legislation mandating informed consent before abortion. Clearly, the clinic’s “counseling” is focused more on persuading women to have abortion than it is on actually informing women of the risks of abortion and the alternatives available.

The researchers conclude that women will benefit more from “interactions with caring, nonjudgmental, trained counseling staff who can assess and respond appropriately to their individual needs.” Of course, in the view of these researchers, “nonjudgmental” does not mean that the counselor is not biased in favor of abortion, and “trained” means the counselor is trained to sell abortion.



Further, why do the researchers conclude that informed consent legislation prevents such “individual” counseling? There is nothing in any informed consent law that prevents a clinic employee from having a one-on-one counseling session with a woman seeking abortion.

The aforementioned information is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg when it comes to the study’s bias toward abortion. It is clearly a mechanism to spout pro-abortion mantras. The article claims that women cope well following abortion (ignoring data that women face an 81 percent increased risk of mental health problems following abortion) and that fewer than one percent of women cite pressure from a partner or parents as “the most important reason” for their abortion (ignoring that 64 percent of women report feeling coerced into their abortions). Apparently, if coercion happens but isn’t “the most important reason” for the woman’s abortion, it’s okay to allow the woman to be coerced.

Women deserve better. Women need to be presented with all pertinent information before abortion—and not just that information deemed necessary by an employee paid by an abortion clinic. Note: Mailee Smith is a staff counsel at Americans United for Life.