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The Turnaway Study: Ten Years, a Thousand Women, and the Consequences of Having—or Being Denied—an Abortion (Paperback)
“If you read only one book about democracy, The Turnaway Study should be it. Why? Because without the power to make decisions about our own bodies, there is no democracy.” —Gloria Steinem
The “remarkable” (The New Yorker) landmark study of the consequences on women’s lives—emotional, physical, financial, professional, personal, and psychological—of receiving versus being denied an abortion that “should be required reading for every judge, member of Congress, and candidate for office—as well as anyone who hopes to better understand this complex and important issue” (Cecile Richards).
What happens when a woman seeking an abortion is turned away? To answer this question, Diana Greene Foster assembled a team of scientists—psychologists, epidemiologists, demographers, nurses, physicians, economists, sociologists, and public health researchers—to conduct a ten-year study. They followed a thousand women from across America, some of whom received abortions, some of whom were turned away. Now, for the first time, Dr. Foster presents the results of this landmark study in one extraordinary, groundbreaking book.
Judges, politicians, and pro-life advocates routinely defend their anti-abortion stance by claiming that abortion is physically risky and leads to depression and remorse. Dr. Foster’s data proves the opposite to be true. Foster documents the outcomes for women who received and were denied an abortion, analyzing the impact on their mental and physical health, their careers, their romantic relationships, and their other children, if they have them. Women who received an abortion were better off by almost every measure than women who did not, and five years after they receive an abortion, 99 percent of women do not regret it.
As the national debate around abortion intensifies, The Turnaway Study offers the first thorough, data-driven examination of the negative consequences for women who cannot get abortions and provides incontrovertible evidence to refute the claim that abortion harms women. Interwoven with the study findings are ten “engaging, in-depth” (Ms. Magazine) first-person narratives. Candid, intimate, and deeply revealing, they bring to life the women and the stories behind the science.
Revelatory, essential, and “particularly relevant now” (HuffPost), this is a must-read for anyone who cares about the impact of abortion and abortion restrictions on people’s lives.
About the Author
Diana Greene Foster is a professor at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) in the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Reproductive Sciences and director of research at Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health (ANSIRH). An internationally recognized expert on women’s experiences with contraception and abortion, she is the principal investigator of the Turnaway Study. She has a bachelor’s of science from the University of California, Berkeley, and a doctorate from Princeton University. She lives with her husband and two children in the San Francisco Bay Area.
"A remarkable piece of research.... The Turnaway Study will be understood, criticized, and used politically, however carefully conceived and painstakingly executed the research was. Given that inevitability, it’s worth underlining the most helpful political work that the study does. In light of its findings, the rationale for so many recent abortion restrictions—namely, that abortion is uniquely harmful to the people who choose it—simply topples."
—The New Yorker
"Foster’s findings are particularly relevant now, as the coronavirus pandemic, the economic downturn and ongoing efforts to restrict abortion access have made the procedure even more difficult for many to obtain."
—The Huffington Post
“The Turnaway Study provides definitive evidence that abortion access strongly enhances women’s health and well-being, whereas denying abortion results in physical and economic harm. Based on a ten-year investigation, the book combines engaging, in-depth stories of women who received and were denied abortion care along with study data from 50 peer-reviewed papers published in top medical and social science journals.”
“Required reading for anyone concerned with reproductive justice."
"Foster’s clearheaded account cuts through the noise surrounding this contentious issue. Policy makers and abortion rights activists should consider it a must-read."
"Foster listens to the 'turnaway women,' and lets their stories, even more than her own scholarship, disrupt the accepted moral and political narratives that regulate access to abortion."
“If you read only one book about democracy, The Turnaway Study should be it. Why? Because without the power to make decisions about our own bodies, there is no democracy. There is no freedom and justice without reproductive freedom and justice."
“Dr. Foster brings what is too often missing from the public debate around abortion: science, data, and the real-life experiences of people from diverse backgrounds. Dr. Foster’s book offers the first in-depth look at the impact of being denied abortion on mental and physical health, economic wellbeing, relationships, and families. This should be required reading for every judge, member of Congress, and candidate for office — as well as anyone who hopes to better understand this complex and important issue.”
—Cecile Richards, co-founder of Supermajority, former president of Planned Parenthood, and author of Make Trouble
"The Turnaway Study demonstrates the power of narrative in illuminating why women seek abortions. I have always been a feminist, and I believe we have a responsibility to safeguard reproductive rights for women everywhere--and for future generations. In this book, statistics and stories meet to reveal the consequences of denying women this service, as well as what happens when they receive it. The Turnaway Study is an essential read."
—Isabel Allende, author of A Long Petal of the Sea and The House of the Spirits
“Dispelling so many of the prevailing myths about why women seek abortion, this compelling, carefully researched, and unique study makes clear how public policies can so powerfully harm women as they make this deeply personal decision. The moving stories of real women will help illuminate for all of us – both pro-choice and anti-abortion advocates – how restrictive policies can damage the lives of women and their families and why no woman should be turned away when she seeks an abortion.”
—Judy Norsigian and Jane Pincus, authors of Our Bodies, Ourselves
"Discourse and dialogue about abortion are far too often a fact free zone, filled with emotion and ideology and bereft of the wisdom of social science. Foster has been at the forefront of changing this destructive dynamic. She has spent years studying the impact on real people and real lives of being able to access abortion services. Her work challenges how we evaluate morality in public policy--it's a must read."
—Ilyse Hogue, President, NARAL Pro-Choice America
“Our reproductive realities were the victims of fake news before the term existed, which is why Dr. Foster and her team’s work is ever more essential. With rigor and honesty, this book is an important and clarifying contribution to a reality-based conversation about abortion.”
—Irin Carmon, co-author of Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg
“The stories and findings in The Turnaway Study are captivating and confirm what abortion funds have witnessed from their helplines for decades. Hundreds of thousands of people calling for help across the country are navigating too many barriers to the care they need. This book illustrates that the process of obtaining an abortion is entirely too complicated and the outcomes of being denied an abortion are unjust.”
—Yamani Hernandez, Executive Director of the National Network of Abortion Funds
“The loud discourse around abortion, framed in the language of politics, religious beliefs, and women’s changing social roles, is so intense that sometimes people don’t take the time to discover the who, what, when and why of actual people making decisions and having real health and social outcomes. Dr. Foster has created an indispensable resource for scientists, policy makers, doctors, and legislators who are seeking facts to inform their opinions.”
—Dr. Stephanie Teal, Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Pediatrics, and Clinical Science at the University of Colorado School of Medicine and past President of the Society of Family Planning
“The Turnaway Study reflects the ultimate in scientific methodology on this contentious subject. The rich, accurate information resonates with the poignant personal accounts. Here is the complete abortion book, both informative for health professionals and accessible to lay readers.”
—Dr. Nada L. Stotland, Professor of Psychiatry at Rush University and past President of the American Psychiatric Association
“Dr. Foster has contextualized the ground-breaking Turnaway Study using the stories of the people who are the most central to the abortion debate but whose experiences are generally overlooked: people who have abortions."
—Monica R. McLemore PhD, MPH, RN, FAAN, Associate Professor of Nursing, UCSF and Chair, Sexual and Reproductive Health at the American Public Health Association