Navigating Social and Institutional Obstacles: Low-Income Women Seeking Abortion

Qual Health Res. 2014 Jul;24(7):1006-1017. doi: 10.1177/1049732314540218. Epub 2014 Jun 16.


Nearly half of all women in the United States will have at least one abortion during their lifetime, and many will encounter economic, logistical, and/or social obstacles while attempting to undergo the procedure. The purpose of this project was to examine the abortion-seeking experiences of a volunteer sample of Oregon women, to identify key barriers and the strategies women employed to overcome them. Using a mixed-methods approach combining survey and interview data with participant observation, we found that low-income women experienced structural and economic barriers to abortion even though abortion is covered by the state Medicaid program in Oregon. Social support helped women overcome obstacles, and a lack of support was itself experienced as an obstacle. Women of lower socioeconomic status also encountered more barriers and had a more difficult time overcoming them. Our findings indicate the need for improved advocacy to reduce structural delay, and to improve access to social support and other resources needed for timely abortion care.

Keywords: abortion; health care disparities; lived experience; poverty; pregnancy, unwanted; social support.