Abortion is a way to end a pregnancy. Sometimes, an embryo or fetus stops developing and the body expels it. This is called spontaneous abortion or “miscarriage.”
A woman can also choose to end a pregnancy. This is called an induced abortion. There are two ways it can be done ¡X surgical and medical.
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Who chooses abortion?
The chances are high that a woman will have more than one unplanned pregnancy in the course of her lifetime. Nearly half of all women will have an abortion by the time they are 45 years old (NAF, p.26).
About five million women in the U.S. become pregnant every year. Half of those pregnancies are unintended. And 1.2 million end in abortion. The most common reasons a woman chooses abortion are
– She is not ready to become a parent.
– She cannot afford a baby.
– She doesn’t want to be a single parent.
– She doesn’t want anyone to know she has had sex or is pregnant.
– She is too young or too immature to have a child.
– She has all the children she wants.
– Her husband, partner, or parent wants her to have an abortion.
– She or the fetus has a health problem.
– She was a victim of rape or incest.
Can anyone help me decide if abortion is right for me?
Most women look to their husbands, partners, families, health care providers, clergy or someone else they trust for support as they make their decision. Specially trained counsellors at women’s health clinics can talk to you in private. You may bring someone with you. You will discuss your options ¡X adoption, parenting, and abortion. Your counsellor will try to make sure that no one is pressuring you to have an abortion.
Does my partner or a parent need to know?
Many women go to the clinic with their partners. However, you don’t have to tell your partner. Either way, the clinic ensures complete privacy. If there are complications during the procedure, however, parents may be notified.
More than half of the teenagers who choose abortion talk about it with at least one parent. But telling a parent is only required in states with mandatory parental involvement laws. Such laws force a woman under 18 to tell a parent or get permission before having an abortion. In most of these states, if she cannot talk with her parents ¡X or chooses not to ¡X she can appear before a judge. The judge will consider whether she is mature enough to decide on her own. If not, the judge will decide whether an abortion is in her best interests.
If you are a minor considering abortion, find out about the laws in your state. Your local Planned Parenthood health centre can help.
When are abortions performed?
Most women have abortions in the first trimester ¡X the first three months of pregnancy. Fewer than 9 per cent of abortions take place in the second trimester ¡X 14 through 24 weeks of pregnancy. After 24 weeks, abortions are rare and done for serious health reasons.
The Earlier, The Better
Try to arrange an abortion as soon as you have made up your mind. Early abortions are easier, safer, and cheaper than abortions later in pregnancy.
Age, race and marital status: About 80% of women having abortions were over the age of 18. 2
The rate of teenage abortions has dropped from 31 per 1,000 women in 1983 to 21 per 1,000 women in 1994. 6
This rate is highest for women under 15 (77.5 in 1992) and over 40 (47.0 in 1992); it is lowest among women 30 to 34 (18.3 in 1992). This may reflect differences in the rates of unexpected and unwanted pregnancies among women in these age groups.
78% of the women having abortions were unmarried. 1
Abortions are relatively rare among married women (8.1 per 100 live births) vs. those by unmarried women (75 per 100 live births). 7,8 These numbers were 7.8 and 65.5 in 1996. 1
CDC figures for 1995 show that 20% of women having abortions are in their teens; 33% are aged 20 to 24, and 47% are aged 25 or older.
In 1996, about 57% of women who receive legal abortions were white. The abortion rate was 55.5 per 100 live births for black women, 20.2 for white women, and 36 for women of other races. 1
Almost half of the American women (43%) will have an abortion sometime in their lifetime.
Reasons for abortion: Essentially all abortions are done because the woman simply does not want to be pregnant. Only a small minority are done for medically necessary reasons.
Older pregnant women are often urged to undergo a procedure called amniocentesis, in order to determine if the fetus has a genetic disorder. We have not been able to find any statistical data on the percentage of couples that elect to have an abortion after a disorder is detected. There is some anecdotal information that it is close to 100%.
During the year 2000, in England and Wales, there were 175,000 abortions performed. Of these, 134 of these were performed because of a risk to the woman’s life. Over 162,000, (92%) were solely on the grounds of risk of injury to the physical or mental health of the woman. The latter terms are interpreted very broadly in England as they are in North America. 15
Religion: the Alan Guttmacher Institute reported in 2001-JUL that 37.4% of all abortions are performed on Protestant women; 18% of all abortions are done on born-again Protestants. 9 “Born-again” believers constitute about 30% of the American adult population, and are thus under-represented among those women having abortions.
The abortion index by religion during 1994-1995 was found to be: Protestants: 0.69
Followers of a non-Judeo-Christian religion: 0.78
Persons who do not follow an organized religion: 4.02
An index value of 1.0 represents the national average. e.g. Catholics were 1% more likely to obtain an abortion than average. Data was prepared by Roper Center for Public Opinion Research, Storrs, CT, in 1995 from five Gallup polls. 10
These data need to be interpreted carefully. The index is a function of many variables, including The percentage of women in the religious group who are sexually active.
The percentage of sexually active women who do not use contraceptives.
The rate of their sexual activity.
The type of sexual activity — whether it is liable to result in pregnancy.
The percentage of pregnant women who would not wish to be pregnant.
The percentage of pregnant women who choose to have an abortion.
For example, the average Roman Catholic teenager might not have access to birth control information. All other factors being equal, this would increase the index for Roman Catholics.
The procedure: 98% of abortions in the US were done by a suction technique, either by manual vacuum aspiration or by surgery 5
Fewer than 0.5% are done by intrauterine saline or prostaglandin instillation.
Fewer than 0.01% were done by hysterectomy or hysterotomy
In Michigan during 1995: 0.06% of abortions involved complications (usually shock)
35% of abortions were performed in freestanding clinics; 64% in physician’s offices; essentially none in hospitals. 11
In the US, 69% of abortions are performed at 441 abortion clinics 11
Access to abortions: In 1996, 86% of all U.S. counties had no abortion provider. 92% of the counties had no abortion provider that performed 400 or more abortions annually. 12
In 1986, 32% of women of reproductive age lived in counties with no abortion provider. 12
Access to abortion, particularly for women in rural locations, is expected to improve as medical abortions using RU-486 become generally available for up to 7 weeks gestation.
United Nations statistics show that access to abortion is only legal in 27% of countries worldwide. Virtually no government in Africa allows abortion access, although Kenya is considering it as of 2001-OCT. 13
Other factors: Roman Catholic women have abortions at a significantly higher rate than Protestants. 14
Women in school have abortions at a higher rate than those who are not. 14
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