TERRY GROSS, HOST:
This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross. When Mike Pence was running for vice president, he said, if we appoint strict constructionists to the Supreme Court, as Donald Trump intends to do, I believe we will see Roe v. Wade consigned to the ash heap of history where it belongs. Since then, Trump has appointed two conservative justices. The arguments used against abortion often refer to the medical risks of the procedure and the guilt and loss of self-esteem suffered by women who have abortions.
In order to explore what the impact of abortion is on women's health and women's lives, my guest, Diana Greene Foster, became the principal investigator of a 10-year study comparing women who had abortions at the end of the deadline allowed by the clinic and those who just missed the deadline and were turned away. The study focuses on the emotional health and socioeconomic outcomes for women who received a wanted abortion and those who were denied one.
Her goal is for judges and policymakers to understand what banning abortion would mean for women and children. The results of the study are published in Foster's new book "The Turnaway Study: Ten Years, A Thousand Women, And The Consequences Of Having - Or Being Denied - An Abortion." Turnaway refers to the women who were turned away from having an abortion. Foster is a professor at the University of California, San Francisco in the department of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive sciences.
Diana Greene Foster, welcome to FRESH AIR. Before we get to the results of the study, what impact do you think the pandemic is having on access to abortion?
DIANA GREENE FOSTER: Thank you for having me. The pandemic has definitely made abortion a lot harder for women to access in certain states. There were a handful of states that tried to declare that abortion wasn't an essential service. And that shut down clinics. And then a judge would put a hold on that. And they would open. But then they would have too many people waiting. And they couldn't see everyone. It was, I think, particularly a nightmare in Texas, with a lot of people unable to be seen and people traveling hundreds of miles at a time when they should've been able to shelter in place.
GROSS: So why did you want to do this study comparing women who had abortions at the end of the deadline allowed by the clinic and women who just missed the deadline and were turned away?
FOSTER: The idea that abortion hurts women has been put forth by people who are opposed to abortion. And it really has resonated. So state governments have imposed restrictions in response to the idea that abortion hurts women, so telling clinics that they have to counsel women on the harms of abortion. And that idea made it all the way up to the Supreme Court so that Justice Kennedy, in 2007, used the idea that abortion hurts women as an excuse - or as a reason - for banning one procedure.
And what he said in 2007 was that while we find no reliable data to measure the phenomenon, it seems unexceptionable to conclude that some women come to regret their choice to abort the infant life they once created and sustained. Severe depression and loss of esteem can follow. And critics of this statement have said this is patronizing that women would need to be protected from their own decisions.
But the one thing I like about this quote is that he admits that there aren't reliable data. And so my goal with the Turnaway Study was to create reliable data, so have a scientific study where the two groups of women are similar. But their outcomes are different because one group received an abortion and one was denied.
GROSS: You write that anti-abortion activists have shifted the debate from the rights of women versus the rights of fetuses to abortion being a woman's health issue. How are people who are using women's health to frame the issue, how are they using it? What is the argument they're making?
FOSTER: I think, from both sides, there's an emphasis on the danger of abortion. So if you ask most people, they would say abortion is dangerous. And anti-abortion people think that the complications are much greater than they are. And even pro-abortion rights people talk about how dangerous it was before it was legal. And so there, I think, people have an idea that it's extremely dangerous.
But the truth is, in terms of complication rates, that abortion is safer than very common procedures like tonsillectomy and wisdom tooth removal. And it's certainly much safer than having childbirth. So - and the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine has just come out with a report summarizing the complication data for abortion that concludes with this, that abortion is not a dangerous procedure.
GROSS: Give us a sense of how you conducted this 10-year study, how you chose the women, how you got information from them about the consequences of having or not having an abortion.
FOSTER: So what we did to do this study was we went to 30 abortion facilities across the country who had the latest gestational age within 150 miles. So if you are too late - if you showed up at a clinic too late for that clinic, there was no one - no other facility within 150 miles who would do an abortion for you. And from each of these clinics we recruited, for every one woman they turned away, two women who were just under the gestational limit.
And because most of these sites had limits in the second trimester but 90% of American women who have abortions have them in the first trimester, we also recruited one woman from the first trimester. And another point is that these facilities had varying limits, all the way from 10 weeks up through the end of the second trimester. And so you could be denied an abortion in Fargo and receive an abortion at that very same gestation if you went to Dallas or New York.
GROSS: And then you - someone from your team interviewed each of the women how often over the course of the 10 years?
FOSTER: So we interviewed them one week after they either received or were denied an abortion, and then every six months for five years. And these interviews were not mostly about the abortion or even unwanted pregnancy. We were interested in their mental health, their physical health, their family's economic well-being, how they were caring for the children they already have and whether they were having more children over the course of the five years.
GROSS: Your study found that women denied abortion had worse mental health problems - for instance, high levels of anxiety, lower self-esteem - than women who received abortions. Judging from what the women told you in this study, what accounts for that?
FOSTER: So we did find that there - an association between abortion and mental health. But it was exactly opposite to what has been said in the popular media. It's not that receiving an abortion was associated with worse mental health, but in the short run, being denied the abortion was - so higher anxiety, lower self-esteem, lower life satisfaction. For up until the first six months, the women who were denied fared worse.
And, in part, it's because they were still looking for another facility that could do their abortion. Or they were coming to terms with the fact that they were about to have a baby that they had previously felt that they weren't able to take care of. So the anxiety and depression actually are, surprisingly, the same between women who receive and who are denied abortions after six months. The big differences that we find in this study over time are not about mental health.
GROSS: What are they about, the big differences?
FOSTER: So when you ask women, why do you want to have an abortion? - they give reasons. The most common is that they can't afford to have a child, or they can't afford to have another child. And we see very large differences in economic well-being over time. Another surprising fact is that most women who have abortions - 60% of women who have abortions in the United States are already mothers. And so a common reason is that they want to take care of the children they already have.
And we find that, in fact, there are differences in women's ability to take care of their existing kids based on whether they received or were denied an abortion. Another reason is that they feel like their relationship with the man involved in the pregnancy isn't strong enough to support having a child together.
GROSS: So let me ask you about the financial question because a lot of people would say, well, if you can't afford to have a baby, that's not a good reason not to have the baby. You know, people have babies all the time. You'll find a way to make it work. So when you say that there are financial consequences about being denied an abortion, what are some of those financial consequences, short term and long term?
FOSTER: There are immediate differences in women's ability to hold a full time job. And they're reporting that they have enough money to meet basic living needs, like food, housing and transportation. And I completely understand people who who would like there not to be economic costs to having kids. And we could have a society with much more generous policies towards low-income moms. And that would be a good thing regardless of whether women have abortions or not.
I think one important point to note about financial reasons for abortion is that they were rarely the only reason. So 40% said they had financial reasons for having an abortion. But for only 6% was it their only reason. So people are just are weighing a whole host of life considerations when they're deciding whether to have a baby or not. What's important, I think, about the financial issues is that that it has long-term effects on people's well-being.
And when we compare women who are denied an abortion and have a baby - their economic well-being to women who receive an abortion but have another child later within the study period, those later children, the subsequent to an abortion - they are raised in better economic circumstances. So when a woman says that she can't afford to have a child, she actually does better if she's able to wait to have a child. Even just a few years. Her child is less likely to be raised in poverty and less likely to be raised in a house without enough money.
GROSS: Are you looking at women in the study of a social - of a certain financial status?
FOSTER: Yeah, so women who seek abortions nationally are disproportionately low-income And that's - particularly they're low-income if they are seeking abortion later in pregnancy. And why is because it's all of the costs associated with getting an abortion are much harder to overcome quickly or to gather the money quickly if you're already trying to raise a family of four on $11,000 a year. So there are already - women who seek abortions are disproportionately poor. And when they're denied an abortion, there's a large economic cost.
GROSS: And talk a little bit about the economic cost. Why is there an economic cost to being denied an abortion if you're already financially challenged?
FOSTER: So women who are denied an abortion are less likely to be able to continue working at the same rate. And in addition to not being able to work, they do often get some kind of public assistance, but it's not enough to meet the massive costs of having a baby. So it's diapers and child care if you are able to work and a place to live. It's not a surprise to anyone that having a child is expensive.
But when you're wanting to have a child, it's often because you feel like you have the resources to do that and that you have the social support to help you support that child. And when women are turned away from abortion we don't find the same kind of family support that women would need in order to feel economically secure. So when we look at women who receive abortions and women who are denied, over five years, the women who are denied are much more likely to be living alone, raising kids without other adult family members and without a partner, compared to women who receive an abortion.
GROSS: One of the reasons you found many women want to have an abortion is that they don't want to remain tied to the man they got pregnant with. This might be because the man is abusive. It might be that the woman just doesn't want to stay with him. It might be the marriage is already dissolving. Can you talk about that a little bit and why that's such an important issue for the women?
FOSTER: Yeah. The - about a third of women seeking abortions have a reason that's associated with the man involved in the pregnancy. And when we have a woman who tells her story and she's in a violent relationship and she explains how it's very difficult to find a job when you're pregnant, to keep a job when you're pregnant or find and maintain a job with a baby - and she attributes - says that the incidents of domestic violence skyrockets 'cause you're financially dependent on your partner because you have to be home with the kid. And we actually find that women who receive abortions - their exposure to domestic violence goes down dramatically after receiving an abortion and that there is no decrease for years among women who are turned away. So being denied an abortion increases the chance that you're tethered to a violent partner.
GROSS: Let me reintroduce you here. If you're just joining us, my guest is Diana Foster. Her new book is called "The Turnaway Study: Ten Years, A Thousand Women, And The Consequences Of Having - Or Being Denied - An Abortion." We'll talk more after we take a short break. This is FRESH AIR.
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GROSS: This is FRESH AIR. Let's get back to my interview with Diana Foster. Her new book, "The Turnaway Study," is about her 10-year study comparing women who had an abortion just before the clinic's deadline and women who arrived just a few days too late and were denied an abortion. The study compares the physical health, mental health, financial circumstances and family life of these two sets of women.
I think it's fair to say your biggest finding in your study is - correct me if I'm wrong here - that there's no major consequences that you could find that most women have as a result of an abortion.
FOSTER: No negative consequences. We find that 95% of women who receive an abortion later report that it was the right decision for them. So I think it's a surprising fact people assume that women feel regret. And I think it's not that they don't realize that there are moral questions involved, but they're weighing their whole life responsibilities and plans and decide this is the right decision for them. And interestingly, I think people have been told so many times that abortion is wrong. But they know that they've been responsible in their own decision-making and that they haven't done something wrong.
And so they assume it's other women. But, you know, everyone is doing that. Everyone is assuming, well, if abortion is wrong but my abortion isn't wrong, I'm just an exception. But, I think, if we talked more to people who had abortions, we would hear that everyone is doing the best they can and trying to make responsible choices that take care of themselves and their children.
GROSS: Well, a lot of people ask, well, if you didn't want to have a baby, why didn't you use contraception and prevent yourself from getting pregnant? So for people who ask that question, what are the answers you found in your study?
FOSTER: Yeah. Many women who have abortions are using contraception. Two-thirds of the women in our study were using a contraceptive method in the month that they became pregnant. And note that not using a contraceptive method is not guaranteed to result in a pregnancy. Lots of people take risks. And not everyone becomes pregnant. So you know, there are very few people who've never had sex at a time that they weren't seeking to have a baby. And contraceptives are expensive. They - many have side effects. We make them as difficult to access as possible. And then we're horrified when people don't use them consistently.
So there was a woman named Chiara (ph) who was from Kentucky. And she had lapsed in her birth control by just a few days because the resupply hadn't come in time. And her hope was everything would be OK, and then it wasn't. You know, it's surprisingly difficult to constantly be vigilant on contraception, especially if you're the kind of person who doesn't like the available methods.
GROSS: So what about women who were turned away from having an abortion and carried the child to term and kept the child? Did they end up, in the long run, being glad they had the child? And was there a difference between the short-term and long-term reaction to having that child?
FOSTER: Women who were denied an abortion - at the first interview, just one week later, two-thirds of them were still wishing that they could have an abortion. It goes down to about 12% at six months, down to 4% after they've had the child. And who is particularly at risk for wishing they had not had the child are people who place the child for adoption because I think there's something about having a kid on your knee. You're much less likely to say that you wish you hadn't had that child. So people do report that they are glad that they had the child.
But we have another way of measuring how people feel about their child and it's through a maternal bonding scale. So we asked women a series of questions about how they feel about their infant. And we asked women who were denied the abortion about the child they had because they were denied. And we asked women who had a subsequent pregnancy later that they carried to term. So it's a series of questions like, I feel happy when my child laughs, or, I feel trapped as a mother.
And women who were denied the abortion are less likely to say, I feel happy when my child laughs and more likely to say, I feel trapped as a mother compared to women who were able to get their abortion and had another child later. And when you use this kind of objective measure of maternal bonding, you see that women who are denied an abortion are more likely to have poor bonding with that child than women who get an abortion and have another child later. It doesn't say that these children are all unwanted at all. People are very resilient. And people do the absolute best they can with their children.
GROSS: Let's take another break here and then talk some more. If you're just joining us, my guest is Diana Greene Foster. Her new book is called "The Turnaway Study: Ten years, A Thousand Women, And The Consequences Of Having - Or Being Denied - An Abortion." We'll talk more after a break. I'm Terry Gross. And this is FRESH AIR.
(SOUNDBITE OF DOMINIC MILLER'S "URBAN WALTZ")
GROSS: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross. Let's get back to my interview with Diana Greene Foster. Her new book, "The Turnaway Study," is about her 10-year study comparing women who had an abortion just before the clinic's deadline and women who arrived just a few days too late and were denied an abortion. The study compares the physical health, mental health, financial circumstances and family life of these two sets of women. Foster is a professor at the University of California, San Francisco in the department of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive sciences.
How would you like to see your research used for policy relating to abortion?
FOSTER: I would love, first, to have its policy more broadly, which is much more generous assistance and less punitive assistance for low-income women who have kids regardless of whether their pregnancy was planned or not. We have welfare caps, where if you have an additional child, you don't get any more assistance, which is draconian and cruel. So we need much more generous policies and child care so that nobody is making the decision just for economic reasons.
In terms of abortion, if we want abortions to happen earlier in pregnancy, then many restrictions should be taken off the books because they don't improve women's health. And they cause abortions to happen later. For example, the one that would have the biggest effect in making abortions happen sooner would be to drop the Hyde Amendment, which is a ban on the federal government paying for any abortions.
The people who rely on the federal government for their health insurance - that's people on Medicaid, people in the military and people who are in the Peace Corps - all of those people are subject to this Hyde Amendment. And it means their public insurance program won't cover their abortion. And so they have to raise the whole cost of it themselves. We even have some states that ban private insurance from covering abortion. So it's not just a matter of not wanting your tax money paying for the abortion, it's really, those laws seem to make it clear that it's about making women pay the price themselves.
GROSS: A lot of people who oppose abortion oppose it because they equate abortion with murder. And in that respect, no amount of research that you can offer about the consequences of being denied an abortion on a woman's life and even on her child's life or the rest of her family's lives, no amount of that research is going to convince somebody that abortion isn't murder.
And in that sense, no amount of research is going to sway those people. Do you feel, in that respect, that your research is kind of futile because a lot of opponents of abortion oppose it because they think of it as murder?
FOSTER: Yeah. I'm under no illusions that this study will change somebody's mind if they think that the embryo or fetus is a person. This study can't resolve the question of when, in pregnancy, the embryo or fetus becomes a person or when the rights of the fetus would outweigh the person who carries it. That's not what this study is about. What this study is is about what the consequences of either receiving or being denied an abortion are on women's lives.
And Roe v. Wade talked about the tension between women's bodily autonomy and the state's interest in a developing fetus. And the law tried to strike a balance there. And what this study adds to that difficult set of issues is that there is more at stake than just women's bodily autonomy and the well-being of a fetus who will become a baby.
It's not just her body, but her whole life trajectory, her chance of having a wanted baby later, her chance of having a good, positive romantic relationship and her chance of supporting herself and her family. It affects their existing children and the well-being of her future children. It can't resolve personhood. But it points out that if we make laws that make assumptions or make decisions about when personhood begins, it has huge ramifications for many other people.
GROSS: Let's get to the Supreme Court. There are now two conservative Trump appointees on the bench. The Supreme Court is expected to hand down a pretty major abortion decision this month. And it pertains to Louisiana and whether doctors performing abortions need to have admitting rights in a nearby hospital. There was a similar case in Texas a few years ago. So tell us about this case and what kind of precedent it would set and what it might tell us about the new Supreme Court and abortion.
FOSTER: So June Medical Services v. Russo is the case that is about Louisiana's admitting privileges law. It's the same type of restriction that was ruled unconstitutional in Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt by the Supreme Court in 2016. But since then, we've gained two conservative justices. And what they decide here will send very large signals to abortion rights advocates and abortion rights opponents.
At issue is the same law about admitting privileges. But what the Supreme Court said in the earlier case, Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt, is that states need to weigh the scientific evidence about the burdens and benefits of restrictions. And they can't pass laws that will have no benefit, but only burden. And so if the Supreme Court decides differently here, it's another nod of our current government to saying that science will not be taken seriously and that it's political ideology that gets to decide laws.
GROSS: What do you think are the odds that the Supreme Court will just overturn Roe v. Wade at some point?
FOSTER: Right now, the Supreme Court doesn't have to overturn Roe v. Wade to make it nearly impossible for women to access abortions. Simply by allowing more and more restrictions to be implemented, they can make abortion nearly impossible to access. I think it's a kind of a political question whether they would want to take such a stand on a law that actually is politically popular. So I don't know, politically, whether they would do that. Apparently, Gorsuch and Kavanaugh were selected from a list of potential justices that had at least voiced that they were opposed to abortion rights. So they may have the desire. But I don't know if they would take that political risk.
GROSS: What are the most significant findings for you from your study that we haven't already discussed?
FOSTER: I think the most important idea that I would like to convey is to correct the idea that abortion is always a hard decision and that women need more time to think about it and that they can't be trusted to make a decision that's best for themselves. So in this study, about half the women say that the decision to have an abortion was easy or straightforward. And half say it was somewhat or very difficult. But having a decision be easy doesn't mean that they weren't thoughtful about it, that they were weighing all of the considerations, all of their responsibilities and deciding what was best for them. And I think it's safe to say they were making good decisions in that when they say why they want to have an abortion, all of their concerns are borne out in the experiences of women who are denied abortions. So they're worried they're not financially prepared. And there are economic costs if you're denied. They say it's not the right time for a baby. And if they're able to delay having a child, that child does better.
So I would love to impart first how common it is to have an abortion. About between 1 in 3 and 1 in 4 American women will have an abortion in her lifetime. You know, it's people like the people you know. And they're making decisions based on their life and what they think the consequences would be of having a baby when they weren't ready.
GROSS: Let's take a short break here. And then we'll talk some more. If you're just joining us, my guest is Diana Foster. Her new book is called "The Turnaway Study: Ten Years, A Thousand Women, And The Consequences Of Having - Or Being Denied - An Abortion." After we take a break, we'll talk about abortions in her family. We'll be right back. This is FRESH AIR.
(SOUNDBITE OF RED HEART THE TICKER SONG, "SLIGHTLY UNDER WATER")
GROSS: This is FRESH AIR. Let's get back to my interview with Diana Greene Foster. Her new book, "The Turnaway Study," is about her 10-year study comparing women who had an abortion just before the clinic's deadline and women who arrived just a few days too late and were therefore denied an abortion. The study compares the physical health, mental health, financial circumstances and family life of these two sets of women.
Diana, you had grandmothers on each side of your family that had unwanted pregnancies. One grandmother carried to term. That baby became your mother. The other grandmother had an abortion. So let's talk about that. Let's start with the grandmother on your father's side of the family. Let's start with how she became pregnant and why she didn't want to carry to term.
FOSTER: The sad thing is that she died while I was in high school, so I never got to ask her these questions. I know that she became pregnant while she was living with my grandfather early in their marriage in New York City during the Depression. And she felt that they couldn't afford to have a baby. And she - at the time, abortion was illegal. And she had to go to Puerto Rico to get an abortion. And I never got to ask her about her experiences.
I do know that when she died, you know - no mention was made of abortion over my childhood that I can remember. But when she died, my grandfather asked that all donations be made to Planned Parenthood. So I think that though it wasn't talked about, it had a large impact on her life. And she went on to have three kids and was a loving, happy mother.
GROSS: Did anyone in your family actually come out and tell you that she had an abortion?
FOSTER: I heard it both from my mother and my father. So she must have had a quiet conversation with my mother at some point - is my guess. I doubt - I would be surprised if she directly told my father. It's the kind of thing women might talk about with each other. And it's really too bad that we don't talk about our unwanted pregnancies because it gives the impression that it rarely happens when, in fact, many people have unwanted pregnancies. And we could have a little more empathy if we understood how common it was.
GROSS: Well, let's look at your mother's side. Your maternal grandmother, Dorothy (ph), got pregnant at the age of 19 from her golf instructor. The implication in the way you tell the story is that she did not want to have sex with him.
FOSTER: It was her funny way of talking. I don't - what she says is that he taught her more than she needed to know. So I don't know how coerced that was. He was married at the time and supposedly in the process of separating - is what he had told her. But when she told him she was pregnant, he said that he would get all his friends to say it could be theirs if she told anyone that it was his. So he was clearly a total jerk.
And she told her parents, who were very conservative Christians. And they were appalled, you know, horrified at the unwanted, out-of-wedlock pregnancy. And they begged her to get an abortion. And she - for reasons that she never fully explained to me, she refused. So she went to the Salvation Army home for unwed moms - mothers. And she gave birth to my mom and placed my mom for adoption.
And the kind of saddest part of her story comes next, which is her parents hadn't visited her while she was at the Salvation Army home for unwed moms. And so she didn't know if she had a home to go home to. And so after delivery, which was, like the women in my study, very complicated with a period of - a long period of disability after, she went home with another woman she'd met there.
And that brother, the brother of the one she went home with raped Dorothy. What he told her was she was already no good. So the idea that she was spoiled or tainted and so had lost all claims over her body - and that, I think, was even worse than the rejection by her parents and the placing a child for adoption, which can be very difficult. This idea that she was forever tainted was deeply harmful. And it's an idea you hear still that somehow, if you become pregnant when you aren't intending to, you lose say over what happens to your body.
GROSS: And your mother was able to track down her birth mother when your mother was in her mid-40s, and her birth mother, your grandmother, was in her mid-60s. Did you get to meet her?
FOSTER: I sure did. A friend of my mom's did the geneology investigation, found Dorothy's birth certificate, which had a note from Dorothy's mom changing the spelling of Dorothy's father's name. And that note had a date, which put Dorothy in high school. And the friend of my mom called the high school alumni association and said she was looking for Dorothy. And the man said - oh, Dorothy, I had a drink with her last week.
GROSS: Oh (laughter).
FOSTER: So it was the first news we had that she was alive and well. And you know, tentatively - oh, well, could we have that phone number, please? (Laughter). And we called.
I grew up in Maryland. And when I went to college, I went to UC Berkeley in California. And Dorothy, who was living in Santa Cruz, was my closest relative. So she picked me up from the airport with all my stuff and dropped me at my dorms and was, you know, a close - just the greatest relationship through my college years of getting to visit her in Santa Cruz.
GROSS: Oh, what a great story.
FOSTER: Yeah, she never actually went on to have other children after my mom, and that's something we also find in "The Turnaway Study" is that if you carry an unwanted pregnancy to term, it creates a detour in your life. And you're actually less likely to have wanted children later. So she tried to have other children, and it just didn't work out.
GROSS: Well, in your grandmother's case, the pregnancy and the birth were so traumatic, especially being raped afterwards, while she was having a very difficult recovery from childbirth. That's horrible to think about. But she had a decent life. Her life worked out for her, right?
FOSTER: Yeah, she was adventurous and ahead of her time in many ways of, you know, owning businesses and traveling. And she, you know, wasn't a feminist in the way that we would say now. She really viewed that success was finding a man who would take care of you. And I think it's 'cause that was the road she got off of, and she never got on it again. So she had - you know, she never had someone to just take care of her. So I might have gotten a Ph.D. from Princeton, but she was most happy that I was married and that the - my two children were my husband's children. Those were, from her perspective, my biggest accomplishments.
GROSS: I suspect a lot of our listeners are thinking that if your maternal grandmother had aborted her unwanted pregnancy that your mother wouldn't have been born and, therefore, you wouldn't have been born. So why do you support the right to abortion?
FOSTER: Dorothy refused an abortion and gave birth to my mother. If she'd had an abortion, I clearly wouldn't exist. And my dad's mother overcame great obstacles to get a wanted abortion and later gave birth to my father. So if she hadn't - if she had not had an abortion, I wouldn't exist.
Given how - the long history of abortion in our country, many of us are alive today 'cause our mothers and grandmothers were able to avoid carrying an unwanted pregnancy to term. And this study shows that abortion may end the possibility of one life, but it enables women to take care of the children she already has and, if she chooses, makes it possible for her to have a baby under more favorable circumstances later.
GROSS: Well, Diana Foster, thank you so much for talking with us.
FOSTER: Thank you so much for having me and discussing "The Turnaway Study."
GROSS: Diana Greene Foster is the author of the new book "The Turnaway Study: Ten Years, A Thousand Women, And The Consequences Of Having - Or Being Denied - An Abortion." She's a professor at the University of California, San Francisco in the department of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive sciences.
This month, Turner Classic Movies is presenting a jazz and film series. Our jazz critic Kevin Whitehead has written a new book about jazz and film. After a break, he'll defend the much maligned genre of jazz biopics. This is FRESH AIR.
(SOUNDBITE OF GERALD CLAYTON'S "SOUL STOMP")
TERRY GROSS, HOST:
This is FRESH AIR. On cable this month, Turner Classic Movies is presenting a series of movies with jazz connections. As it happens, our jazz critic Kevin Whitehead has a new book about movies that tell jazz stories. Here's his defense of a much maligned film genre - the jazz biopic, screened biographies of jazz musicians.
(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "THE BENNY GOODMAN STORY")
STEVE ALLEN: (As Benny Goodman) All right. Let's get to work.
SHEP MENKEN: (As Harry Goodman) I got only one suggestion to make, Benny.
ALLEN: (As Benny Goodman) Mmm hmm?
MENKEN: (As Harry Goodman) If you're going to be a bandleader, you ought to change your name.
ALLEN: (As Benny Goodman) Why?
MENKEN: (As Harry Goodman) Who's gonna remember a name like Benny Goodman?
KEVIN WHITEHEAD, BYLINE: A moment from the 1956 "Benny Goodman Story." He kept the name.
Many jazz fans hate jazz biopics, biographical movies, and with good reason. Performers' lives get heavily compressed and fictionalized, and musicians who appear as themselves are made to say and do silly things.
Personally, I like biopics, recognizing they're biographical fictions not documentaries. I like seeing what true stuff gets in or gets left out, what gets invented when the true story would do and how messy lives get squeezed into stock story formulas. And yet, it's surprising how much most biopics get right, if only because facts can be squeezed into dialogue when the action veers off course.
In "The Benny Goodman Story," his booking agent's terse updates keep us apprised of the bandleader's early breakthroughs.
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HY AVERBACK: (As Willard Alexander) They talk about busy fellows. You're going to be one, Benny. Deal is closed for the Congress Hotel. It looks like you're booked solid with one-night stands all the way from here to Chicago.
DONNA REED: (as Alice Hammond) How about New York?
AVERBACK: (As Willard Alexander) Oh, there's some interest there, too.
WHITEHEAD: And the more ambitious biopics invented scenes aimed to reveal some higher truth. In 2016's "Born To Be Blue," after a beatdown leaves Chet Baker unable to play trumpet, Ethan Hawkes as Chet retreats to his parents' farm in Oklahoma to recuperate in coldly beautiful wintertime. This poetic interlude speaks to Chet Baker's Oklahoma roots. But his parents had left there when he was 10. They'd been living in Redondo Beach. Some biopics go big, as the director and star of another one from 2016 put it.
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DON CHEADLE: (As Miles Davis) If you're going to tell a story, come with some attitude, man. Don't - you know, don't be all corny with this [expletive].
WHITEHEAD: That's Don Cheadle channeling Miles Davis in declaring his intentions as the director of "Miles Ahead." Many miles fans hated that biopic for focusing on the trumpeter's druggy, reclusive years of the 1970s. But there are extended flashbacks to his earlier prime, when natty Miles plays ballads as love letters to his woman. The split narrative underscores the sweet and sour sides of his personality. Radical shifts in tone, plus a frame story and a final scene where Cheadle's Miles jams with a pan-generational dream band all speak to Miles Davis's compulsion to keep reinventing himself.
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WHITEHEAD: Most jazz biopics give you a sense of the artist's music via historical recordings or newly recorded solos by a living subject or through skillful mimicry. One reason I don't like "Lady Sings The Blues" is Diana Ross barely gives you a clue what the real Billie Holiday sounded like. Even in the ridiculous Danny Kaye biopic of cornettist Red Nichols, "The Five Pennies," you hear the real Nichols when the character picks up the horn. And the real Red gets to trade licks with guest star Louis Armstrong.
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WHITEHEAD: In "The Five Pennies" disciplined studio pro Red Nichols turns into leering, compulsive entertainer Danny Kaye. It's not the only '50s biopic where the subject morphs into the actor. In "St. Louis Blues," staid composer W.C. Handy becomes a suave singing pianist very like star Nat King Cole. In "The Gene Krupa Story," the drummer smokes pot, has trouble dealing with early success and makes the gossip columns with his self-indulgent antics, like the film's star, Sal Mineo.
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SAL MINEO: (As Gene Krupa) That stuff not only threw my timing off, but it made my sticks kind of slippery and - all right. So if there's a rap for having messed with this stuff once, I guess I've got it coming to me. But those reefers were not mine.
WHITEHEAD: Starting in the 1980s with "Bird," about Charlie Parker, jazz biopics got more loose and creative, scrambling chronological order. We also start seeing jazz tales with unreliable narrators. The title of a 1991 biopic is a tell, "Bix: An Interpretation Of A Legend." The mostly kind of accurate story of doomed cornettist Bix Beiderbecke is told in flashback by violinist Joe Venuti. In the real world, Venuti was a notorious practical joker, so the made-up stuff might all be his invention, leaving the filmmakers with clean hands.
In 2019's "Bolden," jazz pioneer Buddy Bolden wastes away in a mental hospital, trying to piece together his long-ago career and inserting fanciful details, just as other folks spread tall tales about the real Buddy. "Bolden" freely mixes man and myth, like movies about, say, Wyatt Earp. In fact, classic Westerns make a good parallel with jazz biopics - melodramas and morality tales set in an imagined past where the facts are twisted as needed but with better music.
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GROSS: Kevin Whitehead's new book is called "Play The Way You Feel: The Essential Guide To Jazz Stories On Film." Tomorrow on FRESH AIR, as more cities open up, we talk with Dr. Michael Osterholm about where we are now in the pandemic and what to expect in this next phase. He's the director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota and author of "Deadliest Enemy: Our War Against Killer Germs." I hope you'll join us.
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