Timing of steps and reasons for delays in obtaining abortions in the United States

Contraception. 2006 Oct;74(4):334-44. doi: 10.1016/j.contraception.2006.04.010. Epub 2006 Jun 30.


Objective: We studied the steps in the process of obtaining abortions and women's reported delays in order to help understand difficulties in accessing abortion services.

Methods: In 2004, a structured survey was completed by 1209 abortion patients at 11 large providers, and in-depth interviews were conducted with 38 women at four sites.

Results: The median time from the last menstrual period to suspecting pregnancy was 33 days; the median time from suspecting pregnancy to confirming the pregnancy was 4 days; the median time from confirming the pregnancy to deciding to have an abortion was 0 day; the median time from deciding to have an abortion to first attempting to obtain abortion services was 2 days; and the median time from first attempting to obtain abortion services to obtaining the abortion was 7 days. Minors took a week longer to suspect pregnancy than adults did. Fifty-eight percent of women reported that they would have liked to have had the abortion earlier. The most common reasons for delay were that it took a long time to make arrangements (59%), to decide (39%) and to find out about the pregnancy (36%). Poor women were about twice as likely to be delayed by difficulties in making arrangements.

Conclusions: Financial limitations and lack of knowledge about pregnancy may make it more difficult for some women to obtain early abortion.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Abortion, Induced / economics
  • Abortion, Induced / education
  • Abortion, Induced / psychology*
  • Abortion, Induced / statistics & numerical data*
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Decision Making
  • Female
  • Gestational Age
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Health Services Accessibility / statistics & numerical data*
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Menstruation / physiology
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Tests / statistics & numerical data
  • Pregnancy Trimester, First / psychology
  • Pregnancy Trimester, Second / psychology
  • Social Class
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Time Factors
  • United States