The study, one of the largest on the subject to date, was published Sunday in the journal Social Science & Medicine.
The researchers found that five years after having had an abortion, only 6% expressed mainly negative emotions. The overwhelming majority of women surveyed (84%) had positive emotions or no emotion about their decision to abort, even if they had not felt that way when they were making the decision to abort.
Just over half of the women in this survey said the decision to terminate the pregnancy was very difficult and 27% characterized as "something difficult." About 46% said it was not a difficult decision at all. Almost 70% said they felt they would be stigmatized if people knew they had an abortion.
Women who said they struggled with the decision or felt stigmatized by it were more likely to report guilt, anger or sadness immediately after abortion, but over time, these feelings decreased dramatically, sometimes even a year after the abortion.
The main emotion that all the women's groups in the study said they felt at the end of the survey was relief. Relief was an emotion used to describe how they felt each time they were asked about it.
The researchers reached this conclusion after surveying almost 1,000 women., and track them 11 times over a period of five years. They surveyed women who lived in 21 states a week after having had an abortion and then again every six months.
In the past two decades, researchers say, it has been assumed that women will regret having had an abortion.
The researchers say that the results of this study prove that this notion is a myth.
The only thing Rocca said she found surprising about the results of her study was that, regardless of how the woman felt before the abortion, what remained after five years, even after many of the other feelings subsided, the women felt relief.
"One might think that relief was a short-term feeling that would disappear after weeks, but it doesn't fade like the other feelings," Rocca said. "The relief was constant."