New Guttmacher research finds that abortion rates declined among most groups of women between 2000 and 2008. However, one notable exception was poor women (those with family incomes less than 100% of the federal poverty level). Poor women accounted for 42% of all abortions in 2008, and their abortion rate increased 18% between 2000 and 2008, from 44.4 to 52.2 abortions per 1,000 women aged 15–44. In comparison, the national abortion rate for 2008 was 19.6 per 1,000, reflecting an 8% decline from a rate of 21.3 in 2000. Abortion rates decreased 18% among African American women in the same period, the largest decline among the four racial and ethnic groups examined. Notwithstanding this decline, the abortion rate among African American women is higher than the rate for both Hispanic and non-Hispanic white women: 40.2 per 1,000, compared with 28.7 and 11.5, respectively.
The study also estimates that given the current abortion rate, nearly one in 10 U.S. women of reproductive age will have an abortion by age 20, one-quarter by age 30 and nearly one-third by age 45. The proportion of women estimated to have an abortion in their lifetime (by age 45) has been declining, from 43% in 1992 to 30% in 2008, as the overall abortion rate has declined.
The authors suggest that the ongoing economic recession may have made it harder for poor women to obtain contraceptive services, resulting in more unintended pregnancies. In addition, when confronted with an unintended pregnancy, women who might have felt equipped to support a child or another child in a more stable economic climate may have decided that they were unable to do so during a time of economic uncertainty.
“That abortion is becoming increasingly concentrated among poor women suggests the need for better contraceptive access and family planning counseling. It certainly appears these women are being underserved,” says study author Rachel K. Jones. “Antiabortion restrictions and cuts to publicly funded family planning services disproportionately affect poor women, making it even more difficult for them to gain access to the contraceptive and abortion services they need.”
The study also found that teen abortion rates declined 22%, from 14.6 per 1,000 in 2000 to 11.3 per 1,000 in 2008 among those aged 15–17. This age-group accounted for a small proportion of abortions (6%).
The authors analyzed data from the Guttmacher Institute’s 2008 Abortion Patient Survey, Current Population Surveys for 2008 and 2009, and the 2006–2008 National Survey of Family Growth to estimate abortion rates by subgroups and lifetime incidence of abortion.
“Changes in Abortion Rates Between 2000 and 2008 and Lifetime Incidence of Abortion,” by Rachel K. Jones and Megan L. Kavanaugh, appears in the June issue of the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology.