Duke University-Led Study Finds Major Lack of Knowledge on Abortion Laws and Regulations

A survey by researchers at Duke University and the University of North Carolina found that most women of child-bearing age were unfamiliar with their state’s abortion laws. And many of these women were uniformed about abortion in general.

The researchers surveyed a large group of English- and Spanish-speaking women between the ages of 18-49 in the United States. The survey asked 12 questions about laws regulating abortion in a respondent’s state and five questions on common abortion myths.

The mean score for the group was just over two correct answers out of 12 on the laws. Poverty, low levels of education, or low health literacy did not appear to be factors affecting knowledge of state abortion laws. Women who believe abortion should be illegal, and those living in states with neutral or hostile state policies toward abortion were more likely to have poor knowledge of the law.

For three of the five myths about abortion, women endorsed myths over facts. Myths that persisted included misinformation on abortion safety. While the risk of death from childbirth is 14 times that of death from abortion, respondents in the study were more likely to view childbirth as safer than abortion. They were also likely to believe abortion has adverse psychological consequences, which has been disproven in the short and long term.

The authors conclude that “supporters of reproductive rights can use these results to show policymakers that their constituents are unlikely to know about laws being passed that may profoundly affect them. These findings underscore the potential benefit in correcting widely-held, medically-inaccurate beliefs about abortion so opinions about laws can be based on fact.”

“Our findings should serve as a guide for physicians to ensure their patients have accurate knowledge about their reproductive rights,” said Jonas Swartz, lead author of the study and medical director of family planning in Duke’s department of obstetrics and gynecology.

The study, “Women’s Knowledge of Their State’s Abortion Regulations. A National Survey,” was published on the website of the journal Contraception. It may be accessed here.

Filed Under: Research/Study


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