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Research study

Utah’s 72-Hour Waiting Period

- back to the Evaluation of Abortion Restrictions Project

Background

In May 2012, Utah implemented a 72-hour waiting period for women seeking abortion in the state. This law requires that women wait at least 72 business hours between having an in-person abortion information visit, where they receive mandated information, and receiving their abortion; requiring two separate visits. While 24-hour waiting periods have been in effect in multiple states for many years, Utah was the first state to implement a 72-hour waiting period. Since then, other states, including South Dakota and Missouri, have implemented 72-hour waiting periods and others have implemented 48-hour waiting periods.

Objectives

To understand women’s experiences with a Utah state law requiring women to wait 72 hours between having an in-person abortion information visit and receiving their abortion.

Study design

Participants include 500 women presenting at an abortion information visit at one of four family planning facilities in Utah. Participants completed baseline surveys at the information visit and follow-up telephone interviews three weeks later. Follow-up questions included questions about whether and when participants had an abortion, their reasons for not having had an abortion (in cases where they have not had an abortion), reasons for waiting more than 72 hours, and their experiences with the two-visit requirement, state-mandated information, and waiting period.

Key findings

Utah’s 72-hour waiting period and two-visit requirement:

  • burdened women with financial costs, logistical hassles and extended periods of dwelling on decisions they had already made.
  • led some women to worry that they may not be able to have the type of abortion they preferred.
  • pushed at least one woman beyond her facility’s gestational limit for abortion.
  • did not prevent most women who presented for information visits from having abortions.

 

Having to wait did not appear to change women’s minds.

  • Most women had made the decision to have an abortion and were not conflicted about their decision when they presented for their abortion information visit. Only 8% reported high conflict. Most (86%) went on to have an abortion. This confirms other studies that find the vast majority of women have made their decision and go on to have an abortion regardless of waiting periods.
  • 8% reported changing their minds, but most of those women had been conflicted at the information visit. Only 2% of women who were not conflicted about their decision at the information visit did not have an abortion.

Download the Utah 72-hour waiting period Issue Brief, which highlights the findings of this study.

The full publication, titled, "Utah's 72-Hour Waiting Period for Abortion: Experiences Among a Clinic-Based Sample of Women," is available online from the journal Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health.

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ANSIRH is a program within the UCSF Bixby Center for Global Reproductive Health and is a part of UCSF's Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology & Reproductive Sciences.

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