More than poverty: disruptive events among women having abortions in the USA

J Fam Plann Reprod Health Care. 2013 Jan;39(1):36-43. doi: 10.1136/jfprhc-2012-100311. Epub 2012 Aug 20.


Background: In the USA, abortion has become increasingly concentrated among poor women. For many, poverty represents difficulties meeting financial obligations, but the authors expect it is also associated with a range of potentially difficult life circumstances that may influence women's pregnancy decisions.

Methods: This mixed methods study relied on two data sources. Quantitative data came from a national sample of 9493 women obtaining abortions in 2008 and examined exposure to 11 potentially disruptive events. The authors also examined associations between disruptive events, poverty status and contraceptive use. Qualitative information from 49 in-depth interviews was used to provide insights into patterns that emerged from the quantitative analysis.

Results: More than half (57%) of the women obtaining abortions experienced a potentially disruptive event within the last year, most commonly unemployment (20%), separation from a partner (16%), falling behind on rent/mortgage (14%) and/or moving multiple times (12%). Poverty status was significantly associated with several of the events, particularly those that could directly impact on a family's economic circumstances, for example losing a job or having a baby. Information from the in-depth interviews suggested that disruptive events interfered with contraceptive use, but the quantitative survey found no difference in contraceptive use by exposure to disruptive life events, even after controlling for poverty status.

Conclusion: Many abortion patients make decisions about their pregnancies in the midst of complex life circumstances.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Abortion, Induced / statistics & numerical data*
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Contraception Behavior / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Life Change Events*
  • Poverty / statistics & numerical data*
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Spouse Abuse / statistics & numerical data
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Young Adult