Understanding women’s reasons for abortion can help personalize the debate over abortion, correct public misconceptions and allow the chance for compassion. Let’s face it, nobody is actually pro-abortion or necessarily wants to be faced with this decision. Unfortunately, there are not a lot of resources where women talk about their abortion reasons -- or their feelings after seeking the procedure. Even though abortion is the most common surgical procedure performed for women in the US, it is also the most stigmatized. The decision to have an abortion is generally decided by both diverse and interrelated reasons. Most women usually cite several reasons for abortion. Research, over the years, has consistently revealed similar reasons from women as to why they’ve chosen to have an abortion.
According to research, the most frequently cited answers women provide as reasons for abortion (and the percentage of women who provided them) are:
- Having a baby would dramatically change my life (74%)
- I can’t afford a baby (73%)
- Didn’t want to be a single mother or was having relationship problems (48%)
- Having a child would interfere with my education (38%), work (38%) or ability to care for my other child(ren) (32%)
- I have completed my childbearing (38%)
- Not ready to have a child (or another one) (32%)
- Don’t want people to know I had sex or got pregnant (25%)
- Don’t feel mature enough to raise a(nother) child (22%)
- Husband or partner wants me to have an abortion (14%)
- Possible problems affecting the health of the fetus (13%) or concerns about their own health (12%)
- Parents want me to have an abortion (6%)
- Was a victim of rape (1%)
Misconceptions about Reasons for AbortionUnfortunately, many people have biased and misinformed perceptions about the reasons why women choose abortion. Abortion is a complicated and complex issue. People need to realize that most women who are faced with this decision do not make it lightly. It is usually with a lot of soul-searching, thinking and weighing out all the scenarios that this decision is made. There are many who think women’s reasons for abortion center around using it simply as a method of birth control. Yet, women’s reported reasons for ending pregnancies have been consistent over time. Most women of every age, race, income level, parity and education who chose an abortion cite reasons having to do with concerns about responsibility to children and other dependents as well as concern about children they may have in the future. This reason is quite different from the common perception that women’s reasons for abortion have more to do with convenience (i.e. it’s the easy way out). It seems that when making the decision to seek an abortion, women base their decisions mainly on their ability to remain financially stable as well as being able to care for the children they already have. For some that believe that abortion is the easy way out, women who have actually had an abortion say that the opposite is, in fact, the case. Believing that it is not fair or right to bring a child into their lives knowing that they were not financially or emotionally ready to be a parent was the right thing to do by the child – even though it was a painful and difficult decision for the woman... one that will be with her for the rest of her life.
The Complexity of Abortion Decisions
Being faced with an unplanned pregnancy is not something most of us want to be faced with; however, when it does occur, there is no shortage of opinions about how a woman "allowed" this to happen. The most common judgment that people make is believing women find themselves in this predicament because they were being irresponsible and not using birth control. But this couldn't be farther from the truth. Half of all unintended pregnancies actually occur while women are using birth control. Given this, when faced with the reality that their birth control failed, many women find themselves conflicted over what to do. For some, abortion is an inconceivable act, yet for others, abortion may be one’s only way out.
Unfortunately, reasons for abortions become more complex given the morality of this procedure and the wide-reaching public debate over it. It is important to emphasize that the decision to seek an abortion is multifaceted and usually heart-wrenching for the people involved. Research further establishes that women who chose abortion stress how they consciously examined the moral aspects of their abortion decision. Interestingly, though some of these women depicted abortion as wrong and sinful, many of those same women (and others, in general) expressed that the act of indiscriminately having children is sinful as well; thus, they came to the conclusion that having an abortion was the correct thing to do and the most responsible choice. Most women who have chosen to terminate their pregnancies will speak to the complexity of their decision as well as how intense and difficult the process of deciding to have an abortion is.
When determining reasons for abortion, women take into account the moral weight of their responsibilities to their families, themselves and children they might have in the future. Personal, familial, social, moral and economic factors all factor into reasons for abortion. Shedding light on women’s reasons for seeking abortions can help can inform public opinion and prevent and/or correct misperceptions. However, more importantly, by understanding the complexity of this decision and the reasons why a woman chooses to exercise this choice may hopefully open the doorway for compassion and understanding for women faced in this painful situation.
Finer, Lawrence B. and Lori F. Frohwirth, Lindsay A. Dauphinee, Susheela Singh and Ann F. Moore. "Reasons U.S. Women Have Abortions: Quantitative and Qualitiative Perspectives." Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health. 2005, 37(3):110–118. Accessed April 3, 2011.