Photo by Nina Robinson/The Verbatim Agency/Getty Images
Originally published on February 23, 2018
Talking about sensitive issues like abortion can be tough. While we’re all entitled to our own opinions, we’re not entitled to our own facts. Knowing the answers to common questions about abortion can help you offer the information and support your clients need to make the best decisions for themselves and their families.
- Is abortion safe?
Abortion is an extremely safe procedure when performed under proper medical conditions. Fewer than 1% of all U.S. abortion patients experience a major complication.
People who have abortions come from all racial, ethnic, socioeconomic, and religious backgrounds. Most abortions occur among those whose age is 20-24, have low income, have at least one child, have some college education, and report a religious affiliation. Experts estimate that about one in every four women in the U.S. have an abortion during their lives.
- Who provides abortions?
Most abortions are provided by clinics that specialize in abortion and reproductive healthcare. Abortions are also provided in private physician offices, hospitals, and non-specialized (primary care) clinics. Doctors, nurses, midwives, and medical support staff all play a role in providing abortion care.
- Where is abortion available?
Abortion is legally available in all 50 states, but several states have only one known abortion provider and 89% of counties have no abortion provider. One in three women live in a county without an abortion provider.
- How much does an abortion cost?
The average cost of a first trimester aspiration abortion with local anesthesia is $508, while the average cost of a medication abortion is $535. Costs increase later in pregnancy and can range from $750 to more than $1000.
- What is medication abortion?
Medication abortion involves the administration of drugs to terminate a pregnancy. Typically, two drugs – mifepristone and misoprostol – are used. Medication abortion is generally an option only in the first 10 weeks of pregnancy.
EC is a form of birth control that prevents pregnancy after unprotected sex. It can be taken up to five days after unprotected sex. EC doesn’t end a pregnancy and won’t work if you’re pregnant. EC can be purchased over the counter. Medication abortion ends a pregnancy. It can be prescribed up to 10 weeks into pregnancy. Unlike EC, medication abortion can’t be obtained over the counter and can only be dispensed by a clinician.
- Why do women have abortions?
The most common reasons people obtaining abortions in the U.S. give for having an abortion are the need to care for existing children, financial concerns about having a child, work or school commitments, concerns about their relationship, or becoming a single parent.
- Why do people have abortions later in pregnancy?
Almost 90% of abortions occur in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. People obtain abortions later in pregnancy for reasons that include delayed knowledge of the pregnancy, changed life circumstances, fetal anomaly, and delays in finding an appropriate service provider.
- What proportion of women have an abortion during their reproductive years?
About one in every four women have an abortion during their lives.
- Do people who already have children choose to get abortions?
About six in 10 people who get abortions have one child already. About three in 10 have two or more children.
- Which age group has the most abortions?
Most pregnant people obtaining abortion care are in their 20s.
- What happens when pregnant people want abortions but aren’t able to get them?
A study of women who were unable to access abortion in Texas after half of the clinics there closed showed that 7% attempted to self-induce using misoprostol, herbs, or other methods. Another study that compared women across the country who were able to access abortion with women who were unable to access abortion found that women who could not access abortion reported more symptoms of anxiety, a lower rate of self-esteem, lower satisfaction with their lives, and similar levels of depression. Finally, a study using the same cohort found that one year after seeking an abortion, women who were able to get one were significantly more likely to have set aspirational goals for themselves and to have achieved those goals than women who were not able to access the abortion they sought.
- Do state laws that intend to restrict abortion access have an effect on whether pregnant people can obtain abortions?
The full effect of state laws that intend to restrict abortion is not entirely known, since some women may be able to travel to nearby states to obtain abortions if getting one in their state is too difficult. There is data, however, that indicates that when abortion is harder to access, more women may look to self-induce an abortion. A study about accessing abortion in Texas estimates that at least 100,000 women tried to self-induce using misoprostol, herbs, or other methods after half of the clinics there closed. Another study found that between 2011 and 2015 Google searches for terms that relate to self-induction rose from 119,000 to 700,000. Finally, a study of over 1,000 people who’d searched for self-induction found that 11% reported that they had self-induced an abortion.
- Does abortion lead to depression, cancer, and infertility?
Medical research shows that abortion does not increase a woman’s chance of depression or cancer, or impact future fertility.
- Do people who are religious get abortions?
The majority of people who got abortions in 2014 indicated that they were a member of some religion. Nearly 24% of abortion patients said they were Roman Catholic, 18% reported being Mainline Protestant, 13% said they were Evangelical, and 8% said they belonged to a faith other than Christianity.
- Are women living with HIV more vulnerable to complications from unsafe abortions?
Women living with HIV are particularly susceptible to infection and complications that could result from unsafe abortion procedures. Many people living with HIV experience co-infections resulting from a weakened immune system. “Ensuring that safe abortion is available and accessible to the full extent allowed by law to women living with HIV who do not want to carry a pregnancy to term is essential to preserving their reproductive health” (WHO, 2006).