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Being Denied an Abortion and Suicidal Ideation

Am J Psychiatry; ePub 2018 May 24; Biggs, et al

Levels of suicidal ideation were similarly low between women who had abortions and women who were denied abortions, according to a recent study. Researchers recruited 956 women from 30 US abortion facilities, who were interviewed by telephone 1 week after their abortion visit, then every 6 months for 5 years. Women who received near-limit abortions were compared with women who were denied an abortion and carried their pregnancies to term (turnaway-birth group). Women completed the suicidal ideation items on the Brief Symptom Interview (BSI) and the Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ-9). The Sheehan Suicidality Tracking Scale was used to assess imminent suicidality. They found:

  • 1 week after abortion seeking, 1.9% of the near-limit group and 1.3% of the turnaway-birth group reported any suicidal ideation symptoms on the BSI.
  • Over the 5-year study period, the proportion of women with any suicidal ideation symptoms on the BSI declined significantly to 0.25% for women in the near-limit group and nonsignificantly to 0.21% for those in the turnaway-birth group.
  • In 4 out of 7,247 observations (0.06%), women reported being imminently suicidal.


Biggs MA, Gould H, Barar RE, Foster DG. Five-year suicidal ideation trajectories among women receiving or being denied an abortion. [Published online ahead of print May 24, 2018]. Am J Psychiatry. doi:10.1176/appi.ajp.2018.18010091.