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Study Examines Impact of Utah’s 72-hour Waiting Period for Abortion

Bixby Center for Global Reproductive Health, UCSF

A new study finds that Utah’s law mandating at least a 72-hour waiting period for an abortion procedure has done little to dissuade women from their decision, but the study reveals additional costs, delays and anxiety for women who go on to have an abortion.

The study was conducted by researchers at the University of California in San Francisco, and was published in the journal Perspectives of Sexual and Reproductive Health. Assistant Professor Sarah Roberts is the lead author.

“What we found is that the vast majority of women had already made their decision about having an abortion when they presented at their first required abortion information visit, and then the vast majority of them went on to have an abortion,” Roberts says.

After the required two visits and the waiting period, researchers found that patients incurred greater costs, logistical challenges, and more stress. In fact, women waited, on average, eight days between attending the information visit and having the abortion. One woman was pushed beyond her facility’s gestational limit. Roberts concludes that the 72-hour waiting period imposes unnecessary restrictions for most women, but Gayle Ruzicka, President of the Utah Eagle Forum, draws a different conclusion. She’s focused on the eight percent who said they changed their minds.

“They do show that there is a percentage of those women who end up not having their abortion and that’s what this is all about is to save babies,” Ruzicka says. “If we can save the lives of the babies, if we can get help the women get through this time without the pressure from outside sources, then I would say it’s very effective.”

Ruzicka advocated for the nation’s first 72-hour waiting period in the Utah legislature in 2012. Since then, four more states have followed suit.

Andrea Smardon is new at KUER, but she has worked in public broadcasting for more than a decade. Most recently, she worked as a reporter and news announcer for WGBH radio. While in Boston, she produced stories for Morning Edition, Marketplace Money, and The World. Her print work was published in The Boston Globe and Prior to that, she worked at Seattleââ
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