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Characteristics and Circumstances of Adolescents Obtaining Abortions in the United States

Doris W. Chiu, Guttmacher Institute Ava Braccia, Guttmacher Institute Rachel K. Jones, Guttmacher Institute

First published on International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health:

Abstract / Summary

The purpose of this study is to describe the sociodemographic and situational circumstances of adolescents obtaining abortion in the United States prior to the Dobbs decision. We use data from the Guttmacher Institute’s 2021–2022 Abortion Patient Survey, a cross-sectional survey of 6698 respondents; our analytic sample includes 633 adolescents (<20 years), 2152 young adults (20–24 years), and 3913 adults (25+ years). We conducted bivariate analyses to describe the characteristics and logistical and financial circumstances of adolescents obtaining abortions in comparison to respondents in the other age groups. The majority of adolescents identified as non-white (70%), and 23% identified as something other than heterosexual. We found that 26% of adolescents reported having no health insurance, and two-thirds of adolescent respondents reported that somebody had driven them to the facility. Adolescents differed from adults in their reasons for delays in accessing care; a majority of adolescents (57%) reported not knowing they were pregnant compared to 43% of adults, and nearly one in five adolescents did not know where to obtain the abortion compared to 11% of adults. Adolescents were more likely than adults to obtain a second-trimester abortion, which has increased costs. This study found that this population was more vulnerable than adults on several measures. Findings suggest that adolescents navigate unique barriers with regard to information and logistics to access abortion care.