Psychosocial aspects of medication abortion
Awarded 2020
Increasing access to medication abortion
Julia Steinberg, PhD
University of Maryland

Research on whether abortion causes mental health problems has largely been conducted on women having surgical abortions. And the rigorous science that we rely on to understand this association does not address whether those having medication abortions have different mental health consequences or experiences relative to those having surgical abortions. Thus, we do not have scientific evidence regarding whether medication abortion affects women’s mental health. In order to increase (and maintain) access to medication abortion in the US, we must understand whether medication abortion increases risk of or causes mental health problems. Building from recent research we have conducted, we propose a project that will be relevant for policy and practice. We will utilize secondary data analysis of Danish Population Registers to examine incidence rates and incidence rate ratios of mental health problems in the year before and after both medication and surgical abortions, and as more time from the abortion increases. We will also examine whether findings differ by age and gestational age (within the first trimester) at the time of the abortion. By understanding whether there are changes in mental health from before to after having a medication or surgical abortion (relative to not having an abortion) and whether these associations vary by age or gestational age, we will answer whether medication or surgical abortion increases (some) women’s risk of mental health problems. Thus, we will be better equipped to inform policies and practices around medication abortion.