Twisting the Knife

The Turnaway Study: Ten Years, a Thousand Women, and the Consequences of Having—or Being Denied—an AbortionDiana Greene FosterScribner, 2020; 360 pages, $27.00 The quotation on the front cover of The Turnaway Study is at first puzzling. “If you read only one book about democracy,” begins Gloria Steinem, “The Turnaway Study should be it. . . . without the power to make decisions about our own bodies, there is no democracy.” “Odd,” a reader may think. “I thought this was a book about abortion, not politics.” The author, Diana Greene Foster (the lead researcher of the study from which the book gets its name), even asserts in one of the closing chapters that she “is not attempting to engage in a moral or political argument.” And yet she baldly and blatantly does so throughout, casting blame on conservative senators who restrict abortion access (at the behest, presumably, of their constituents) or who mandate that women be told of the risks of abortion before they undergo one. The point of the book is in fact highly political, so much so that the research team and the publishing bodies ignored some very serious flaws in the data in their rush to embrace the results. The Turnaway Study is the result of a six-year-long survey of women recruited at 30 abortion clinics nationwide. A team of researchers compared outcomes for those women who received an abortion with those who arrived at the clinic too late in their pregnancies and were “turned away.” The study was conducted by the group ANSIRH, Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health, which hails from the University of California, San Francisco. The ANSIRH team first recruited almost 1,000 women (956—even the subtitle of the book is not quite accurate) for participation in a series of follow-up calls over a period of five years, with questions gauging such things as their psychiatric well-being, financial status, employment, and how the abortion may have impacted the arc of their
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