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Thursday, August 23, 2012

Why Women Have Abortions

Posted by on Thu, Aug 23, 2012 at 11:59 AM

The Great Abortion Debate often boils down to depressing conversations about rape, incest, or death. Specifically, if the slew of anti-abortion measures introduced by Republicans over the last few years included exceptions for rape and incest victims (or provisions for the health of the mother). Liberals fight for these exemptions—which is good and just—but over time it's skewed the conversation by implying that these are the most worthy reasons to seek an abortion, while glossing over the host of other reasons women seek to end pregnancies.

But a Guttmacher report released this week shows that 57 percent of women who obtain abortions have experienced some form of social shock prior to their procedure—such as becoming unemployed, separating from their partner, or falling behind on rent or mortgage payments. Roughly 9,500 women were surveyed for the study, which is the first of its kind to thoroughly document the social factors that influence women's decision not to remain pregnant.

You have to pay to see the full report; Luckily, the Nation has the highlights:

Physical or sexual abuse is another kind of “disruptive event,” one that seven percent of women obtaining abortions reported. “Women with abusive partners are substantially over-represented among abortion patients,” the study concluded. Perhaps surprising to some, more than half of the women surveyed reported using a contraceptive method in the month before they become pregnant.

... As this and other studies suggest, rape and sexual coercion play a role in a significant number of pregnancies. The link found in the Guttmacher study between intimate partner violence and unintended pregnancy in particular calls out for further examination, said Moore. “There are direct ways that violent partners, and nonviolent partners, can interfere with a women’s ability to prevent unintended pregnancy. There’s also a relation between the instability that comes with being in a violent relationship.”

This news is unlikely to influence any of the dick-swinging turds in camp GOP—men who argue that rape victims should happily carry their attacker's pregnancies to term—but it's solid evidence that women seek abortions for a host of social and economic reasons, and it's not for politicians to arbitrarily decide which of those reasons are legitimate.


Comments (30) RSS

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Garfield 1
Here, here, sista. Great report. Thanks.
Posted by Garfield on August 23, 2012 at 12:42 PM · Report this
pg13 2
While illuminating, this information doesn't change my basic take on why women have abortions: Because they're pregnant and don't want to be.

And that's all the reason I need to say "OK. Your body, your choice."

But there are some people who believe "Too bad. Once you're pregnant, there's nothing you should be allowed to do about it."

And I'm not sure there's any real middle ground there.

What we're learning from Aiken/Ryan/Rmoney is that the "only ban late term abortions" or "if you want an abortion, you need to get an ultrasound first" or "only allow in the case of rape or incest" efforts are simply nudging towards the eventual goal of denying abortion entirely...because they don't believe that women should be allowed to do anything once they become pregnant.

Call it a war on women, call it obeying the word of the higher power they let make their decisions for them or call it a sincere belief that once a sperm fertilizes an egg a person instantaneously exists...I don't see how any information or any argument of logic can change the mind of someone who doesn't believe that a woman should be in control of her own body.

...just as no anti-abortion protest is changing my mind to make me think that a woman shouldn't be allowed such control.

Since neither side can win that fight, my main area of concern is reinforcing the idea that just because you believe something simply due to your religious choices doesn't mean that those choices need to be enforced on others who don't believe what you do.

Freedom of religion is not the same thing as "assuming that you should be able to enforce your religious beliefs as law for everyone".

...and the country seems nearly split right down the middle in agreeing with that basic idea or violently disagreeing with it. And that leaves me frustrated and sad.
Posted by pg13 on August 23, 2012 at 12:44 PM · Report this
attitude devant 3
Thanks, Cienna. I am still grimacing over the blond talking head on Anderson Cooper on Monday who was insisting that sex selection was behind many US terminations.....without a shred of evidence, of course. Got to love the Alan Gutmacher Institute.
Posted by attitude devant on August 23, 2012 at 12:55 PM · Report this

If we lived in a country where adolescents were taught about human sexuality and birth control, where birth control was freely available, had national health care, and a robust social services network, we’d have fewer abortions, oh wait In Western Europe the rates of abortion are about 11 per 1000 pregnancies, (the lowest rate in the world) and in the U.S. the rate is 19 per 1000.


Since the right wing opposes abortion, I assume that any day now they’ll be in favor of the U.S. being more like Western Europe.

Posted by Merchant Seaman on August 23, 2012 at 1:07 PM · Report this
I believe that the men who are attempting to limit or deny women's control over their own bodies have the ultimate responsibility for the children born, or not born, because of their legislation. I would like to see every woman who is forced to bear a child because she couldn't work her way through the thicket of limitations deliver that child, at the age of eight days, to the arms of the legislator responsible, in a very public setting, and walk away. If enough of these asshole religio-politicos were handed the actual responsibility of enough unwanted pregnancies, perhaps the magnitude of their arrogance would finally percolate into their skulls.

Then again, perhaps not.
Posted by Calpete on August 23, 2012 at 1:07 PM · Report this
Fnarf 6
The GOP turds don't just want you to carry your rape baby to term; they want your rapist to marry you afterwards, or at least keep his visitation and custody rights, which means you're going to see your rapist standing in your living room for the next eighteen years. That's Republican policy.

Many women who become pregnant, whether by being raped or the more usual consensus way, find themselves faced with a quandary: bear the child, and live in abject poverty for the rest of your life, because school and work are now out of the question, or have an abortion and a fulfilling life (which may well include children later, when she is more financially stable).

This sounds theoretical when you lay it out, but it absolutely is NOT: there are millions of women in this country living in shocking poverty with kids. Many of them are here in Seattle. The whole political debate always revolves around what old people want, but old people are comparatively the wealthiest group of Americans; kids are the poorest. Most poor people are kids or the women who are raising them, usually alone. And yet they have almost no visibility in the political arena.
Posted by Fnarf on August 23, 2012 at 1:16 PM · Report this
keshmeshi 7

I don't agree that the country is split right down the middle. A plurality of Americans support abortion rights with no exceptions. A large share of anti-choicers are squishy with their support. They support rape/incest/health of the mother exceptions and are alienated by the likes of Akin. And, in the end, outlawing abortion would fully alienate many of those people.

For example, many of those against abortion (but not really) people are women, and, were the right to abort taken from them completely, just watch as their opposition to abortion withers away, generally speaking with their first pregnancy scare. Most of these people are uncomfortable with abortion because they have never seen what an abortion ban actually looks like. They've never seen women rendered sterile or *dead* from illegal abortions. They have never been forced to carry an unwanted baby to term.

I'm not usually one to underestimate the stupidity of the American public, but I still think outlawing abortion completely would be the biggest mistake the right wing could ever make.
Posted by keshmeshi on August 23, 2012 at 1:19 PM · Report this
keshmeshi 8

I believe most women who get abortions are already mothers, and the overwhelming majority of the rest will become mothers someday.
Posted by keshmeshi on August 23, 2012 at 1:21 PM · Report this
Let us also recall, when addressing abusive relationships and pregnancy, this horrifying statistic: one of the leading causes of death during pregnancy is homicide, frequently at the hands of a partner or ex.
Posted by lone locust on August 23, 2012 at 1:26 PM · Report this
Fifty-Two-Eighty 10
Kesh @7, I was just looking at this data earlier today. It's more like 25% support abortions with no limitations, 20% don't want any abortions at all, and everyone else is somewhere in the middle.
Posted by Fifty-Two-Eighty on August 23, 2012 at 1:37 PM · Report this
Fnarf, I get what you're trying to say, but you go too far and anyone who does so leaves themselves open to the enemy. Not every woman who bears a child in difficult circumstances goes on to forever live in poverty, and many women who bear children in difficult circumstances have fulfilling lives. Don't make abortion = fulfilling life and no abortion = poverty and terrible life.
Posted by sarah70 on August 23, 2012 at 1:37 PM · Report this
Aurora Erratic 12
Plus, it's nobody's damn business.
Posted by Aurora Erratic on August 23, 2012 at 1:43 PM · Report this
keshmeshi 13

I don't disbelieve you, but could you provide a link? And when I said "exceptions", I meant more along the lines of rape and incest exceptions. I'm sure most Americans support parental notification and the like.
Posted by keshmeshi on August 23, 2012 at 1:44 PM · Report this
Urgutha Forka 14
No, it won't change republicans minds (of course).

Remember, conservatives believe that everything that happens to a person is ENTIRELY due to that person CHOOSING it to happen.

If a woman is beaten, or abused, or raped, she MUST have done something to cause it. Therefore, she is fully responsible for allowing herself get pregnant and she can't be allowed to simply get off the hook by "murdering her baby." She also can't "steal from the hard working taxpayers" to pay for her bad choice to let herself get beaten, raped, and pregnant.

I'm not being hyperbolic here... conservatives truly do believe this.
Posted by Urgutha Forka on August 23, 2012 at 1:46 PM · Report this
Abortion has been illegal or largely unavailable for most of this country's history, and that didn't work out very well.
Posted by Amanda on August 23, 2012 at 1:52 PM · Report this
McJulie 16
Abortions for some, miniature American flags for others!

Seriously, I'd like to push the message that you don't have to feel good about abortions to support them remaining legal and available -- because anybody can see that the alternative is worse.

Well, anybody with an ounce of compassion and common sense. Which appears to eliminate most Republicans, these days.
Posted by McJulie on August 23, 2012 at 1:55 PM · Report this
Fifty-Two-Eighty 17
Kesh @13, I wish I could. It was among the several thousand things (without exaggeration) that came in through RSS feeds today. It would take me an hour to find it again.
Posted by Fifty-Two-Eighty on August 23, 2012 at 2:14 PM · Report this
Urgutha Forka 18

Well, Gallup did a poll not too long ago that supports 5280's stats.…
Posted by Urgutha Forka on August 23, 2012 at 2:20 PM · Report this

Conversely - and somewhat paradoxically - many conservatives also believe that everything that happens is pre-ordained by God, and that any attempt by mere humans to alter that is in direct conflict with God's Will. Frequently, they hold these two mutually-exclusive points-of-view simultaneously.
Posted by COMTE on August 23, 2012 at 2:24 PM · Report this
Fnarf 20
@11, I didn't say that, and I don't see how you get that.

The fact is that MANY women, especially on the economic margins, are indeed condemning themselves to a lifetime of abject penury if they bear a child at that particular juncture in their lives. These women are perhaps unlikely to be found commenting on Slog, but they exist. Some of them will undoubtedly end up in a lifetime of poverty anyways, but many of them will eventually graduate, get a better job, get married, and/or otherwise better their situation to the point where children are a sustainable idea. In this way, an abortion here and there can actually improve the lives of real living children, by not trapping their mothers at too young an age or unstable a situation.

Every mother I've ever known, no matter how excellent, has at some point in her life been unprepared for kids, and was fortunate not to be saddled with them then.

@13, 5280 is pretending that he gets and comprehends several thousand RSS items a day again. This is Will-in-Seattleism. It makes him not understand things.

The more useful (and encouraging) chart is this one, which shows that in the case of rape, fewer than 50% of all groups oppose abortion -- even "Extreme Conservatives", even "The Bible is the Literal Word of God" people.…
Posted by Fnarf on August 23, 2012 at 2:35 PM · Report this
Fifty-Two-Eighty 21
Fnarf, you obviously forget that I'm retired. I've got plenty of time to plow through all this shit. Finding it a second time can be pretty difficult, though.
Posted by Fifty-Two-Eighty on August 23, 2012 at 2:49 PM · Report this
I wonder how much of the Akin-crowd are men's rights supporters? A lot of the battle over women's health is just plain misogyny gussied up to look like moral outrage over abortion and contraception.

Or, to put it another way: white men worried that they'll no longer be special.
Posted by FonsieScheme on August 23, 2012 at 2:50 PM · Report this
merry 23
@ 15 - Exactly.

What often gets overlooked in this debate is the simple fact that making something illegal doesn't make it magically disappear.

Last time I checked, meth, cocaine and heroin were illegal, and they're frickin' everywhere. You don't get to pass legislation that just sweeps things out of existence like that - that's fantasyland.

If Roe vs. Wade is ever overturned, there will still be abortions - they'll just be illegal and female mortality will skyrocket as a result.

But don't confuse Repugs with the actual facts... oh no, that would never do........
Posted by merry on August 23, 2012 at 2:54 PM · Report this
keshmeshi 24

That poll doesn't parse out what "certain circumstances" mean.

Like I said, many Americans support parental notification laws. I think those laws are bullshit, because many kids have shitty or non-existent parents, and the idea that a pregnant child has easy access to the courts is fucking insulting, but most Americans don't know or don't give a shit about the fate of those children. They only care about *their* kids hiding something from them.

Many also have a dumb-assed idea that some subjective number of abortions is "too much", and any woman who crosses that line should be denied getting abortions in the future.

But how many of that 52 percent only approve of abortion in the case of rape, incest, and the health of the mother? It's my experience that most anti-choicers have a healthy sense of "it's okay if it's ME" and so will never support a full ban.

And only 50 percent of the country even considers itself pro-"life".
Posted by keshmeshi on August 23, 2012 at 2:56 PM · Report this
attitude devant 25
23 is right. The abortion rate didn't go up after legalization---abortions just got safer.
Posted by attitude devant on August 23, 2012 at 3:06 PM · Report this
Irena 26
I had an abortion at 15 -- the smartest financial decision, hands down, I ever made. I watched my sister's life go down the drain after she had her first baby at 18. So Fnarf's comments resonate for me.

The most important point here is that a major influence on many women's decision to abort, possibly the biggest influence, is the question of how it will affect her financially (this is doubtless true for the men involved as well, insofar as they are involved). A child at the wrong time completely alters the future landscape of your life, for exactly the reason given @6: "because school and work are now out of the question".

And this is the #1 reason why this issue matters: because it contradicts the Republicans' argument that reproductive rights are a side issue that have nothing to do with jobs and the economy. From the NY Times today, on the discussion of abortion and reproductive rights after Akin:
Women “are paying attention to how the hell they pay for gas in the tank, school clothes for the kids,” the [Republican] adviser said. “We can’t get sidetracked by this.”

The notion that losing reproductive rights -- the right of women and couples to plan their families according to their own best financial interests -- has nothing to do with concerns about paying for "gas in the tank" or "school clothes for the kids" is so patently wrong it's ridiculous. Reproductive rights is directly tied to a woman's (and to some degree her partner's) life time financial health. It's high time we started talking about this.
Posted by Irena on August 23, 2012 at 3:27 PM · Report this
Urgutha Forka 27
Agreed. Some of my favorites include christians blaming the jews for killing jesus, even though jesus was supposedly sent by god for the sole purpose of being sacrificed.

Similarly, blaming eve (and by extension, ALL women) for eating the apple that gives knowledge of right and wrong... completely ignoring the fact that before she ate it, she wouldn't know it was wrong to eat it, because it's the source of that knowledge.

Watching them run logic circles down the toilet is still a hoot though.
Posted by Urgutha Forka on August 23, 2012 at 3:29 PM · Report this
Personally, whilst I'm pro-choice, doesn't it seem a tad "unfair" that a woman in difficult circumstances can choose(rightfully so too) to abort but her partner has basically zero effective input on a child that he would potentially be financially responsible for ~ 18 years. An interesting scenario to consider is when an unplanned pregnancy occurs but the man *wants* the child but the woman does not. A solution(not perfect obviously) would be to introduce the concept of a "financial abortion". Basically, it would allow either party to take whatever course of action suits their circumstance without an onerous 18yr repercussion. Thoughts?
Posted by sango on August 23, 2012 at 7:46 PM · Report this
femwanderluster 29
Wow, @28. You know that men get to decide if they want kids or not, right? The moment of ejaculation.

And no. Just no to everything you're saying. There is no circumstance in which women have control over men's bodily autonomy. See above, make your own decision; be smarter about your sperm. Seems obvious to me...
Posted by femwanderluster on August 24, 2012 at 7:56 AM · Report this
Urgutha Forka 30
Your question is interesting, but it's been discussed here numerous times already. Just put something like "male abortion choice" in SLOG's search box and a bunch of stuff should pop up. Dan even wrote a whole column about it several years ago.
Posted by Urgutha Forka on August 24, 2012 at 9:07 AM · Report this

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