The Real Reason Why Women Get Abortions

March 25th 2015
Over the past couple of years, many state laws have been passed making abortions much harder to access, and future bills will be introduced in states and in Congress to make it harder still. And this affects you. Whether or not you think it does. 
If you think it doesn't, its probably because we've been talking about it wrong. Abortion gets talked about as a legal, political, constitutional, and religious issue; all things very few people are willing to change their minds about. But research shows that abortions are actually mostly about money. 
Financial concerns are the most common reason women seek abortions. 
For 73 percent of women who terminate their pregnancy, the primary reason is being unable to afford the cost of raising a child. What makes this worse is that the abortion restrictions being passed by Congress and by individual states don't get rid of abortion -- they only make the procedure more expensive. When women who can't afford children are systematically priced out of the ability to terminate a pregnancy, their financial difficulties only increase. Then, the costs of limited access to abortion are passed on to you, the taxpayers, according to the Congressional Budget Office, because limited access increases Medicaid spending.
Research also shows that women who are turned away from an abortion provider due to financial problems end up living below the federal poverty line within two years. These women and their children often use additional taxpayer-provided programs like SNAP, WIC, and welfare (which are also being made more and more difficult to access). Obviously, I'm not advocating that we abolish these social safety nets for poor mothers and their children. Only that we not look at abortion bans as an easy solution to a problem that is incredibly complex, and perhaps only worsened by bans and restrictions.
Despite finances being the biggest driving factor in the decision to get an abortion, little to none of the political debate about abortion addresses this issue. You'd think that politicians who are anti-abortion would want to pass social welfare programs that ease the financial burden on new mothers because that would have the most potential to decrease the number of abortions necessary. But, instead, federal spending on children has consistently declined in recent years, and lawmakers try to ascribe causes for abortion that don't matter as much as the financial cost of raising a child. 
Lawmakers focus on banning the least prevalent causes for abortions.  
In late January, the House of Representatives was scheduled to vote on a Republican-sponsored bill that would ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy (currently most states set the ban at 24 weeks because that is the date of viability agreed upon by doctors). The bill included exemptions that conservative and moderate Republicans could not agree upon. So, Republican leadership decided to switch and vote on a different bill, rather than risk voting on the 20-week ban and not passing it. 
But the exemptions they were arguing over account for the smallest numbers of abortions anyway. The exemptions are for mother health (which accounts for about 12 percent of abortions sought), rape (1 percent), and incest (.5 percent). The bill was taken off the table by the Republican leadership because Republican moderates took issue with a provision that said that women couldn't get the rape exemption if they hadn't reported their rape to the police. There are many reasons why a woman who was raped may not have reported it, and that should not preclude her from getting an abortion. But rape accounts for only 1 percent of the reasons women seek abortions. Only 1.5 percent of abortions are sought after 20 weeks. And six in ten of those waited due to financial difficulties. If politicians really care about lowering the number of abortions, why are they only arguing over the rarest exceptions to the rarest cases? 
Abortion restrictions unfairly target poor women
Cutting the amount of time a woman has to seek an abortion down by an entire month would put an unfair burden on working class women who need time to save up money for an abortion. Particularly since doctors have found no medical reason to ban abortion before the 24th week. It would mean more women who can't save enough money in time would be forced to carry unwanted pregnancies to term because of finances.
The last-minute bill that the House passed instead -- presumably because they wanted to pass an anti-abortion bill on the anniversary of Roe v. Wade -- prohibits federal funding for abortions. It prohibits abortions from being covered by Medicaid (which was already the case, but must be renewed yearly), prohibits health plans for federal employees from covering abortion, denies small businesses and individuals a tax credit through the Affordable Care Act if they include abortion in their private health insurance plans, and prevents Washington DC from using local funds to subsidize abortion costs. It does nothing to address the financial reasons that drive most women to seek abortions -- it just makes it harder for them to get one. 
It's even worse on the state level
State laws limit access to abortion far more than federal laws. More than 22,000 women may be turned away from a legal abortion this year due to state restrictions. In the past four years, states have enacted 231 new abortion restrictionsEach restriction makes abortions take longer and cost more, causing some women not to to afford them in time. In order to get legal abortions in many states, women may have to take time off work, drive over 100 miles, twice, endure and pay for a medically unnecessary transvaginal exam, and pay for the procedure out of pocket.
A disturbing number, 48 percent, seek abortion because they are victims of domestic abuse. Domestic abuse that often includes reproductive coercion, or birth control tampering. And researchers have found that domestic abuse only worsens when women are unable to obtain an abortion and then give birth. On the other hand, women who are able to obtain an abortion are more likely to be able to escape violent relationships. 
The most effective thing the country could do to lower the number of abortions would be to offer more financial support to new mothers. The second most effective, would be to offer support to women who are suffering from domestic abuse. Those are goals that should transcend political ideology.

Share your opinion

Do you support expanded access to abortions?

No 10%Yes 90%