Abortion Rises Among Low-Income Women, Falls In Other Groups


States like Indiana and Kansas are trying to block Planned Parenthood from providing health care low-income women simply because it also provides abortions. Meanwhile, the reality-based world reveals that while the abortion rate has gone down 8 percent between 2000 and 2008, it has risen nearly 18 percent among the poorest women.

Put another way, 42 percent of abortions are chosen by women who fall under the poverty line, indicating a major link between access to resources and averting unintended pregnancies, as well as tough choices made by women who may want to carry to term but lack the economic resources.

Four separate studies recently released by researchers at the Guttmacher Institute paint a picture of who gets abortions in the U.S., and the public cost of denying women access to contraceptive services, sex education, and abortion care. That includes the handy state-by-state guide, as seen above, as well as a conservative estimate of how much unintended pregnancies cost the U.S. in public services: $11 billion annually.

Between 2000 and 2008, abortion rates decreased 18 percent among African-American women, the largest decline overall. The abortion rate for that group remains higher than other groups.

The Guttmacher study that looked at a state-by-state rate of unintended or mistimed pregnancies found a major variance by state, with Mississippi having the highest rate and New Hampshire the lowest. There was also a significant state-by-state range in how many of these pregnancies were carried to term versus terminated:

The median proportion of unintended pregnancies ending in birth was 58%, and the median proportion ending in abortion was 29% (the remainder ended in fetal loss). States where relatively low proportions ended in birth included New York (33%), New Jersey (36%), Connecticut (37%), Maryland (41%) and Massachusetts (41%). The states with the highest proportions of unintended pregnancies ending in birth were South Dakota (72%); Louisiana and Utah (71% each); and Arkansas, Kentucky and Nebraska (68% each).

What a surprise that the highest proportion of unwanted or unplanned babies are being born in South Dakota, which has all but banned abortion outright with the longest waiting period in the country, a coercive script for doctors to read, no in-state provider, and requirements that women visit anti-abortion crisis pregnancy centers.

But we’ll leave it to the experts:

Efforts to reduce unintended pregnancy rates by focusing only on reducing abortions (e.g., by restricting access to the procedure) would seem less likely to succeed than efforts that increase access to and use of contraceptives, particularly in states with a high proportion of unintended pregnancies ending in birth. In fact, at the national level, declines in the abortion rate have not been accompanied by declines in the unintended pregnancy rate.

The study that estimated the overall pricetag of women having children from pregnancies they described as unwanted or mistimed noted that in some states, the proportion of these pregnancies from people relying on public funding was 80 percent. Under the Hyde amendment, these women are denied access to publicly-funded abortions except in extremely limited circumstances, or if their state Medicaid makes an exception. And yet some states and some national policy makers want to move in the other direction and block women access to basic family planning sources. But as the study authors note, “In the absence of the services provided at publicly funded family planning centers, the costs of unintended pregnancy would be 60% higher than they are today.”

Abortion Rate Increasing Among Poor Women, Even As It Decreases Among Most Other Groups [Guttmacher]
Nation Pays Steep Price For High Rates Of Unintended Pregnancy [Guttmacher]
Abortion Rate Down Overall, Up Among Poor Women [ABC News]

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