The Women Who Have Had Abortions — What We Can Learn From Them
An important study was released the other day by the Guttmacher Institute ( a research organization that is a spin-off from Planned Parenthood) on the women who have abortions. It contains lots of revealing data, and pro-lifers can learn several key lessons from it.
Among the findings:
In 2008, the majority of women obtaining abortions (58%) were in their 20s; women in their 30s made up the second largest age-group (22%).
42% of women having abortions were poor, a substantially greater proportion than were poor in 2000 (27%).
The overwhelming majority of women having abortions (85%) were unmarried, including 29% who were cohabiting.
62% of women having abortions were in a relationship with the father of the child for at least one year. Even among the unmarried women, almost half were in a relationship with the father for over a year.
Women with no religious affiliation had a relative abortion rate one and one-half times that of all women.
In 2006, the average woman paid $413 for a first-trimester abortion and $1,300 for an abortion at 20 weeks.
61% of women obtaining abortions in 2008 already had children, including 34% who had two or more.
Half of the women surveyed reported one or more prior abortions; most of these women (37% of all abortion patients) reported both a prior birth and a prior abortion.
What can we learn from these findings, and how can they inform our activities? To me, there are several salient points:
Fighting poverty is a pro-life issue. It is essential that we work to alleviate the economic pressures that are driving low-income women to abortion. Issues like availability of day-care, economic support (including health care) for pregnant women and new mothers, and flexible employment rules are all needed to assure women at risk that society supports them in choosing life. This is not just a question of legislation or government programs, but mobilizing the Church, families, and communities to provide the pragmatic support that women need.
Promoting chastity is a pro-life imperative. It is clear from the data that one of the highest risk factors for abortion is sexual activity outside of marriage. We need to reinforce the message that sex should be reserved for marriage, which alone can provide the stable and supportive environment for having and raising children. This message must be pitched not just at teens, but at young adults as well, since they are the largest group that are having abortions now.
Men need to be challenged to support women in crisis. It is heart-breaking to read that so many women having abortions are actually in long-term relationships — and that some are married. Whenever I go to pray at the abortion clinic, I am devastated to see women being dropped off by their boyfriends, or even their fathers. We men need to “man up” and take responsibility for our actions, and never, never, never let a woman feel she has no choice but to go to that clinic.
Healing from prior abortions must be promoted. Given the rate of multiple abortions, there really can’t be any doubt that so many of these women are hurting from their experiences, and that they haven’t healed. We need to continue to promote programs like Lumina and Abortion Changes You to convince women in crisis that there is hope for them, and that they do not have to go back into that clinic.
We need to be clear that abortion is being used as birth control. The contraceptive, anti-life mentality of our society is deeply rooted, and is destroying lives and love. We must do a better job of proclaiming the truth about human sexuality, that it entails an openness and generosity to life. The best way to do this is by celebrating and encouraging those who have children, especially those who have large families (which in this day and age, means those with three or more children).
Listening to women who have had an abortion is essential if we are to learn how to prevent them in the future. This study, even though it is from an arm of the abortion industry, is a useful tool in that task. We need to pay attention.