To examine fertility intentions among abortion patients and the potential of abortion for avoiding short birth intervals.
We used national data from a sample of more than 8000 individuals obtaining abortions in the United States in 2014. We created a measure of fertility intentions based on prior births and responses to an item asking about future childbearing expectations. We identify respondents who reported having a birth in the last 12 months as at risk of a short birth interval. We used simple logistic regression to assess for differences in these measures according to key demographic variables.
Most commonly, 39% of patients intended to have (more) children, with similar proportions wanting to delay a first birth (20%) or postpone a second or higher order birth (19%). Some 31% of abortion patients had completed childbearing; they had one or more prior births and did not want to have any more children. Similar proportions of respondents were not sure if they wanted to have children (16%) or did not want to have any children (15%). Among abortion patients who had children, 14% had had a birth in the prior year. We estimate that as many as 77,800 short birth intervals were averted in 2014 because individuals had access to abortion.
These findings support the view that abortion allows individuals to plan and space their births according to their reproductive life plans and intentions.
Access to abortion may help thousands of individuals in the United States avoid short birth intervals, potentially leading to improvements in maternal and child health.