The prevalence of domestic violence among women seeking abortion

Obstet Gynecol. 1998 Jun;91(6):1002-6. doi: 10.1016/s0029-7844(98)00089-1.


Objective: To determine the prevalence of self-reported abuse in a population of women aged 18 years or older seeking elective pregnancy termination, and to compare abused and nonabused women with respect to the primary reasons for pregnancy termination.

Methods: A self-administered questionnaire was returned by 486 women seeking outpatient abortion. The survey included demographic information, abuse screening, and items regarding partner involvement/awareness of the pregnancy, and abuse as a determinant of the abortion decision. One open-ended item asking the primary reason for pregnancy termination was included.

Results: The prevalence of self-reported abuse in this population was 39.5%. White women were significantly more likely to report any history of abuse than nonwhite women. Relationship issues were the only reason for pregnancy termination given more often by women with an abuse history than by nonabused women. Women with abuse histories were significantly less likely than nonabused women to inform the partner of the pregnancy or to have partner support for or involvement in the abortion decision.

Conclusion: The prevalence of abuse reported by women in this population suggests that many women seeking abortion services may have abuse histories. Abused women may have different reasons for pregnancy termination than nonabused women and may be more likely to make the abortion decision without partner involvement. When routine screening for abuse is included in abortion counseling, health providers have the opportunity for developing a safety plan and initiating appropriate referral.

MeSH terms

  • Abortion Applicants / psychology
  • Abortion Applicants / statistics & numerical data*
  • Abortion, Legal
  • Adult
  • Battered Women / statistics & numerical data*
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Counseling
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy, Unwanted / statistics & numerical data
  • Prevalence
  • Spouse Abuse / statistics & numerical data*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires