Evidence suggests that abortion doesn’t lead to poor mental health — but restricting abortion access does.

In many states, healthcare professionals are legally obligated to tell you that abortion leads to poor mental health.

You may have heard that abortion causes suicidality, depression, or a condition called “post-abortion syndrome.” These are all myths.

Decades of rigorous research have found that abortion doesn’t cause mental health conditions or symptoms of them.

Being denied an abortion when you want one, however, can have a negative impact on your overall well-being.

Research overwhelmingly suggests that receiving abortion care does not have a negative effect on your mental health.

This conclusion is supported by many reputable organizations including:

You may have been told that many people experience “post-abortion syndrome” or “post-abortion stress syndrome” — a condition where you have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)-like symptoms after abortion. But there’s no evidence that this actually exists.

Post-abortion syndrome isn’t recognized by the International Classification of Diseases or the most recent edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, fifth edition. These manuals are widely used to classify and diagnose mental health conditions.

The Turnaway Study, a landmark analysis conducted by Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health, gathered data on people who sought abortions over a period of several years.

Previous studies compared the well-being of people who had wanted pregnancies with people who had wanted abortions.

Because the experience of being pregnant and wanting to have a child is inherently different from being pregnant and not wanting to have a child, the data is biased. It’s comparing apples with oranges.

Instead, the Turnaway Study looked at mental health outcomes for people who had wanted abortions compared with people who wanted abortions but couldn’t access them.

Studies based on the Turnaway Study data have found that:

  • Having an abortion doesn’t lead to worse mental health outcomes.
  • Whether they received or were denied abortions, the participants experienced improvements in their mental health 5 years after seeking abortion services.
  • People who had an abortion were no more likely to feel suicidal than those who were denied an abortion, neither immediately after seeking an abortion nor years later.
  • People who had an abortion were no more likely to develop PTSD than those who were denied an abortion, neither immediately after seeking an abortion nor years later.
  • Having an abortion doesn’t lead to increased alcohol use, tobacco use, or use of other substances.

In terms of emotions, a study recorded how people felt about their abortion over a 5-year period. Out of all emotions, people most commonly report feeling relieved about their abortion.

Some people do regret having abortions, although this happens in very few cases. In the same study, 99% of people who had abortions felt that they made the right decision 5 years later.

Everybody feels different after an abortion. And although most people seem to feel positive about their abortion years later, it’s common to be grappling with negative or complicated feelings.

If you’re looking for emotional support after having an abortion, consider reaching out to All-Options (888-493-0092) or Exhale (call 866-439-4253 or text 617-749-2948) for compassionate and nonjudgmental post-abortion counseling.

Access to abortion care is banned in many states. In states where abortion is legal, you may have to face restrictions such as mandatory waiting periods between the time you seek abortion care and the time you receive abortion services.

Research suggests that mandatory waiting periods can cause emotional distress and financial burden, particularly for people from lower-income households and those who live farther from abortion professionals.

Some states require mandatory pre-abortion counseling. In many states, healthcare professionals legally have to share inaccurate or misleading information designed to convince people to not have an abortion.

This includes inaccurate information on the mental health consequences of having an abortion.

Research has also shown that people who face stigma when they seek an abortion — whether they have an abortion or not — are more likely to experience negative psychological outcomes years later.

Overall, wanting abortion care and being unable to access it is associated with worse mental health outcomes, according to a 2021 systematic review.

This review also concluded that people who were denied abortions were more likely to face poor financial outcomes.

A 2016 study based on survey data collected over a period of 60 years looked at the consequences of unintended pregnancies.

Most participants were in their fifties, and most of their pregnancies occurred before abortion was legalized.

It concluded that unwanted pregnancies are strongly associated with poor mental health effects — particularly depression — later in life.

A study based on data from the Turnaway Study found that compared with people who had a wanted abortion, people who were denied abortions experienced:

Research shows that people who were denied abortions are also more likely to:

A 2019 study found that people who were denied abortions and went on to give birth were more likely to face poor physical health outcomes. They reported more chronic headaches, migraines, and joint pain.

A 2015 study found that they were more likely to experience eclampsia and postpartum hemorrhage.

Another 5-year study, published in 2021, looked at the emotional well-being of people who were denied abortions.

Although participants reported feeling both negative and positive emotions a week after being denied an abortion, their emotional state gradually improved during pregnancy and after childbirth.

This suggests that although abortion denial can cause emotional distress, it’s possible to feel better over time.

If you wanted but were unable to receive an abortion, you may be feeling a range of emotions.

Overall, being denied an abortion is associated with worse mental health outcomes. But this doesn’t mean you’ll inevitably develop a mental health condition or grapple with emotional difficulties forever.

Most of the abovementioned studies note that your mental health depends on your circumstances.

You may be more at risk of developing a mental health condition after an abortion denial if you:

Your mental health may improve if you receive support. This can include speaking with supportive loved ones and getting empathetic, nonjudgmental counseling.

Support groups for people in your situation — whether you later have an abortion, miscarry, or give birth — can help you find social support.

When people have wanted abortions, their existing children and subsequent children (children born after their abortion) fare better.

Research has shown that the existing children of people who were denied abortions are more likely to have lower child development scores than the existing children of people who had abortions.

One 5-year study compared the well-being of children born to people who were denied abortion (index children) with the well-being of children born to people after they had a wanted abortion (subsequent children).

It found that index children were more likely to experience poor maternal bonding and live in poverty.

There are many myths about mental health and abortion. Research overwhelmingly shows that having an abortion does not result in poor mental health outcomes — but being denied an abortion does.

Whether you’ve had an abortion, been denied an abortion, or are considering abortion, it’s a good idea to get emotional support if you feel that you need it.

No matter what you’re feeling — whether it’s relief, sadness, guilt, anger, happiness, or something else — you deserve empathetic, nonjudgmental support.

You can find post-abortion counseling support at:

You can also try contacting Planned Parenthood, which offers mental health services and may be able to refer you to a counseling service near you.

The following Healthline articles may also be helpful:

Sian Ferguson is a freelance health and cannabis writer based in Cape Town, South Africa. She’s passionate about empowering readers to take care of their mental and physical health through science-based, empathetically delivered information.