Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Are Abortions Used as Birth Control?

With just under one million abortions a year in the United States, many people wonder: Are women just using abortion as a method of birth control? 

There are different school of thought on this question. Some prolife hardliners hold that unless the pregnancy is the result of non-consensual sex, or some health problem in mother or fetus is discovered during pregnancy, it's "abortion for birth control." 

The Alan Guttmacher Institute published a study reviewing why women undergo abortions. Each woman could give multiple reasons, but let's look at the ones where the primary reason would be a "hard case." 4% of women said their primary reason for abortions was concerns for their own health. 3% said their primary reason was concern for the health of the fetus. Incest wasn't listed as a possible reason. Rape constituted less than 1/2 of 1%. This means that just over 7% of women gave health concerns for themselves or the fetus, or nonconsensual sex, as the primary reason for an abortion.

This would mean that just under 93% of abortions are done for birth control.

What about women who have repeat abortions? That would certainly seem like those women were using abortion as birth control. The most recent CDC numbers I could find indicate that in 2019, 58.2% of women were undergoing a first abortion, 23.8% had one prior abortion, 10.5% had two previous abortions, and 7.5% had three or more previous abortions. (Note: This is more than the total number of women citing rape, incest, or health as the primary reason for an abortion.) This would indicate that 41.8% of women are using abortions for birth control.

What about defining "abortion as birth control" as a woman who was not using birth control when she conceived, and she had no intention of becoming pregnant. According to the Alan Guttmacher Institute, 49% of women undergoing abortions had not been using birth control the month that they became pregnant. Since some of these women might not have realized they had health problems, or might have discovered that the baby had a health problem, or might have been raped, I'll subtract 7.5% to account for those cases. That would put the leave 45.3% of women using abortion as birth control.

Thus, at the low end, looking at repeat abortions, it looks as if nearly 42% of women who undergo abortions are using it as birth control. A slightly higher proportion, just over 45%, weren't using birth control and sought abortions instead. And 93% are having abortions because, for whatever reason, they just don't want to have the baby.

To look at some of the dynamics involved, I highly recommend Taking Chances: Abortion and the Decision Not to Contracept, by Kristin Luker.

Here are some resources that provide further food for thought:

Watch the video on YouTube.

No comments: