ABORTION FACTS AT A GLANCE

Abstracted from Guttmacher Institute, Facts on induced abortion in the United States, Fact Sheet, 2016

ABORTION BY THE NUMBERS

  • Currently 45% of pregnancies in the U.S. are unintended (Finer 2016).
  • Unintended pregnancy is more common among patients with lower socioeconomic status, and this disparity is growing.
  • Abortion is common and safe in the U.S., but there is a shortage of providers.
  • Of all U.S. pregnancies, 21% end in abortion.
  • Most abortions occur early in pregnancy; about 89% occur in the first 12 weeks.
  • Medication abortions account for 36% of U.S. abortions below 9 weeks.
  • Most U.S. counties (89%) lack an abortion provider, and these counties are home to 38% of reproductive age women.

WHO HAS ABORTIONS

  • Patients of all backgrounds have abortions, including 1 of every 3 U.S. women.
  • Over 60% of abortions are among patients who have had 1 or more children.
  • Of patients obtaining abortions 37% identify as Protestant and 28% as Catholic.
  • On average, patients report ≥ 3 reasons for choosing abortion: ¾ say a baby would interfere with work, school, or responsibilities; ¾ say they cannot afford a child; and ½ do not want to be a single parent or report relationship problems.
  • Nearly 60% of patients who experienced a delay in obtaining an abortion cite it was due to the time it took to make arrangements for the abortion and raise money.
  • Transgender men can experience unintended pregnancy after transitioning socially, medically, or both, and may seek prenatal care or abortion services (Light 2014).

WHO PROVIDES ABORTIONS

  • The number of providers and clinics providing abortion has declined in recent years.
  • The number of providers decreases with increasing gestational age: 95% offer abortion at 8 weeks, 34% to 20 weeks, and 16% to 24 weeks.
  • While most states allow for refusal to provide on the basis of conscientious objection, many abortion providers characterize their provision as conscience-based.
  • At least 17% of providers offer medication abortion services only (Jones 2011).

CONTRACEPTIVE USE

  • Over 50% of patients having abortions used a contraceptive method during the month they became pregnant.
  • Of these, 33% perceived themselves to be at low risk for pregnancy, 32% had method concerns, 26% had unexpected sex, and 1% were forced to have sex.
  • 76% of pill users and 49% of condom users reported inconsistent use.

SAFETY OF ABORTION

  • First trimester abortions pose no long-term risk of infertility, ectopic pregnancy, spontaneous abortion, or breast cancer (Guttmacher 2016).
  • Leading experts conclude that abortion does not pose a hazard to patient’s mental health (Biggs 2016Cohen 2013). The most common emotional response following an abortion is a sense of relief.
  • The mortality associated with childbirth is 14 times that of legal abortion (Raymond 2012).
  • The risk of abortion complications is minimal in the U.S., with less than 0.5% of patients experiencing a complication that requires hospitalization (White 2015).
  • Global data indicate that legal restrictions do not affect abortion rates but instead shift the balance of abortion procedures from those that are legal and safe to those that are unsafe.
  • More than half of abortions performed in developing countries are considered unsafe, accounting for 13% of maternal mortality worldwide, or 70,000 deaths annually.
  • Many global efforts have focused to ensure reproductive health care and technologies are widely available at reasonable cost, provided in the context of high-quality services, and offered in a way that recognizes the dignity and autonomy of each individual.

THE IMPACT OF ABORTION-RELATED STIGMA

  • Because abortion is highly stigmatized, patients who seek or undergo abortion may keep their decision a secret. In many regions of the world, stigma is a recognized contributor to maternal morbidity and mortality from unsafe abortion, even when abortion is legal.
  • A patient may choose not to disclose their decision with family or friends, include abortion in their medical history, or delay care or management of emergencies.
  • A systematic review on the topic showed that patients who have had abortions experience fear of social judgment, self-judgment and a need for secrecy. Secrecy was associated with increased psychological distress and social isolation (Guttmacher 2016).
  • “Stigma and silence produce a vicious cycle: when (patients do not disclose their experience) or providers do not disclose their work, their silence can perpetuate a stereotype that abortion remains rare, or that legitimate, mainstream providers do not perform abortions. This can in turn contribute to marginalization of patients and abortion providers.” (Harris 2013)
  • Stigma can lead to the social, medical, and legal marginalization of abortion care around the world and is a barrier to access to high quality, safe abortion care.

 

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