Characteristics and Circumstances of U.S. Women who Obtain Very Early and Second-Trimester Abortions

Rachel K. Jones, Guttmacher Institute Jenna Jerman

First published on PLOS ONE:

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Abstract / Summary

To determine which characteristics and circumstances were associated with very early and second-trimester abortion.


Paper and pencil surveys were collected from a national sample of 8,380 non-hospital U.S. abortion patients in 2014 and 2015. We used self-reported LMP to calculate weeks gestation; when LMP was not provided we used self-reported weeks pregnant. We constructed two dependent variables: obtaining a very early abortion, defined as six weeks gestation or earlier, and obtaining second-trimester abortion, defined as occurring at 13 weeks gestation or later. We examined associations between the two measures of gestation and a range of characteristics and circumstances, including type of abortion waiting period in the patients’ state of residence.


Among first-trimester abortion patients, characteristics that decreased the likelihood of obtaining a very early abortion include being under the age of 20, relying on financial assistance to pay for the procedure, recent exposure to two or more disruptive events and living in a state that requires in-person counseling 24-72 hours prior to the procedure. Having a college degree and early recognition of pregnancy increased the likelihood of obtaining a very early abortion. Characteristics that increased the likelihood of obtaining a second-trimester abortion include being Black, having less than a high school degree, relying on financial assistance to pay for the procedure, living 25 or more miles from the facility and late recognition of pregnancy.


While the availability of financial assistance may allow women to obtain abortions they would otherwise be unable to have, it may also result in delays in accessing care. If poor women had health insurance that covered abortion services, these delays could be alleviated. Since the study period, four additional states have started requiring that women obtain in-person counseling prior to obtaining an abortion, and the increase in these laws could slow down the trend in very early abortion.