What Are People Looking For When They Google “Self-Abortion”?

Jenna Jerman Tsuyoshi Onda, Guttmacher Institute Rachel K. Jones, Guttmacher Institute

First published on Contraception:

| DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.contraception.2018.02.006
Abstract / Summary

To examine the motivations and circumstances of individuals seeking information about self-abortion on the Internet.

Study design

We identified 26 terms that we anticipated someone might use to find information about self-abortion on the internet. Users who entered these terms into the Google search engine were provided with a link to our survey via Google AdWords. We fielded the survey over a 32-day period; users were eligible if accessing the survey from a U.S.-based device. We examined demographic characteristics of the sample, reasons for searching for information on self-abortion, knowledge of the legality of abortion and of nearby providers, and top performing keywords.


Our Google AdWords campaign containing the survey link was shown approximately 210,000 times, and clicked 9,800 times; 1,235 respondents completed the survey. The vast majority of the sample was female (96%), and 41% were minors. Almost three-quarters (73%) indicated that they were searching for information because they were pregnant and did not or may not want to be. Eleven percent had ever attempted to self-abort. One-third of respondents did not know if abortion was legal in their state of residence, and knowledge of legality did not differ by age.


There is interest in learning more about self-abortion on the Internet. Our findings suggest that, among those who participated in our survey, online searches for information on self-abortion may be driven by adolescents and young adults facing an unintended pregnancy.


Young women, in particular, may have an unmet need for information about safe and accessible abortion options.