Abortion rates have dropped steadily since the 1980s, from a peak of 29.3 abortions per 1,000 women in 1981 to 19.4 in 2005. But behind this general decrease are striking changes in the demographics of abortion. Compared to 30 years ago, women having abortions today are older and more likely to be mothers and minorities, according to a study released Tuesday by the nonprofit, nonpartisan Guttmacher Institute.
The study looked at trends in abortion since 1974, the year after the Supreme Court passed Roe v. Wade, legalizing abortion in the United States. What researchers found is contrary to what pop culture phenoms, from “Juno” to Jamie Lynn Spears, might suggest: Teenagers are not the most likely to confront this issue, twenty-somethings are.
“We’re aware that, today, most of the women having abortions are moms struggling to take care of the children they already have,” says Rachel Jones, senior research associate at the institute
. . . Experts say a lack of health insurance, more common among adults than teens, and access to affordable contraceptives are significant factors in causing abortion rates to stay at a level higher than that of the 1970s among older women. “You could full-well know that the pill or IUDs are effective birth control, but if you don’t have health insurance or don’t have access to affordable family planning, that’s not going to help you much,” says Jones.
. . . Financial barriers seem to be one of the most persistent obstacles in the fight to reduce socioeconomic disparities in abortion rates, say experts. Medicaid coverage of birth control varies by state, and the bureaucracy can be difficult to navigate. The current Guttmacher study did not look at the socioeconomic status of women having abortions, but the institute’s previous research has shown the abortion rates for women below the federal poverty line to be much higher than for more economically advantaged women. “When you don’t have access to affordable birth control, rates of unintended pregnancy are going to be higher. That’s a sad and real-life consequence of the health insurance gap,” says Laurie Rubiner, Planned Parenthood’s vice president of public policy.
Other shifts in demographics bolster Rubiner’s claim that the women having abortions today are increasingly under economic duress: Compared with 1974, they are much more likely to already have children, as well as to be unmarried.
“Women are making a decision, ‘Can I feed another mouth,'” says Kim Gandy, president of the National Organization of Women. “‘Did my husband leave me with three other kids? Is this going to mean that I can’t feed my kids?’ There is a real life decision that a woman has to make.” Many women, she thinks, are asking whether they can afford to have another child.
(emphasis added above is my own)Most of my regular readers know that I am morally opposed to abortion (because as a pacifist, I oppose the taking of human life, no matter what the reason, and I believe that human life begins at a point sometime before birth). I am also very torn between the conflicting issue of a woman’s right to choose, and because of that, tend to oppose overturning Roe v. Wade (with the exception of third trimester abortions if the mother’s health is not in danger and if the pregnancy is not because of rape). I guess I would like to see abortion be “safe, legal and rare,” with the emphasis being on the rare part. So, that’s my own bias. Because of my beliefs, I don’t put a lot of stock in the so-called “pro-life politicians” (like our entire Oklahoma congressional delegation) because they give lip service to ending abortion but then back economic policies that cause abortions to happen. I have believed for a long time that the main thing behind the USA’s high abortion rates is economics, and I think this latest study backs that up. So, for my pro-life readers: If you really oppose abortion, ask yourself this question – Whose economic and health care policies will help older women to be able to choose not have an abortion? And whose policies will make an abortion seem like a good idea? I think the answer is clear. Obama is the best choice for pro-life voters.