Women who are denied access to an abortion are likely to develop long-term health problems, new research suggests.

The study, conducted by the University of California, found that women whose requests were denied reported higher rates of chronic pain in the five years after seeking an abortion than those who were granted terminations in their first or second trimester.

The researchers tracked the self-reported physical health of around 900 women who sought abortions across the US between 2008 and 2010.

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This included women who were close to or slightly beyond the gestational limit for performing abortions – which differs by region in the US – as well as those who received first and second trimester abortions.

In all, 328 women had a first-trimester abortion, 383 had a second-trimester abortion and 163 were turned away. 

Each participant provided information about their pain, chronic conditions and overall health when the study began, and twice a year for the next five years.

When the study first started, 20 per cent of women who had a first-trimester abortion described their pre-pregnancy health as "fair or poor".

In comparison, 17.5 per cent of those who had a second-trimester abortion and about 18 per cent of those who were turned away said the same. 

After the five years of follow-up, about 20 per cent of women who had an abortion at either stage of pregnancy reported "fair or poor" health.

However, among women who were denied an abortion and went on to give birth, the percentage of those who said their health was "fair or poor" rose to 27 per cent.

According to the researchers, women who went on to give birth reported higher rates of chronic conditions including headaches, joint pain, asthma and high cholesterol

Meanwhile, two of the women who were denied terminations died from maternal causes, which Lauren Ralph, the study co-author, said “could have been avoided had these women had access to the health care they had sought”.

“Our study demonstrates that having an abortion is not detrimental to women’s health, but being denied access to a wanted one likely is,” Ralph told Time magazine.

Beyond complications involved with pregnancy and birth, such as excessive bleeding, gestational diabetes and gestational hypertension, Ralph added that the financial implications and stress that may come as a result of being denied an abortion could also negatively impact a woman’s health.

The researchers suggest that the findings are especially poignant given the recent slew of US states passing legislation to restrict abortion rights.

Ralph said that while many of these policies argue that abortions are dangerous, either mentally or physically, this study proves otherwise. 

“The argument that abortion harms women is certainly not supported by our data,” Ralph explained. 

“When differences in health were observed, they were consistently in the direction of worse health among those who gave birth. 

“The findings from the study can really highlight some of the consequences if we continue to restrict access to wanted abortion.”

Several high-profile individuals have publicly condemned the new abortion bans being instated in the US, including Rihanna, Lady Gaga and London mayor Sadiq Khan

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Over the last few months, Louisiana, Georgia, Arkansas, Mississippi, Ohio and Alabama have all passed so-called “heartbeart bills” which place restrictions on the gestation time and circumstances in which a woman can obtain an abortion. 

You can find out more about which countries have the strictest abortion laws here.

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