New Study Reveals Something Surprising About Who Gets Abortions

A new global study on abortion casts doubt over assumptions about who chooses to terminate pregnancies. A joint study by World Health Organization and the Guttmatcher Institute shows that, overwhelmingly, it's not single women who get abortions.

In fact, about 73 percent of abortion patients around the world are married women.

Bilbao 2014

The latest study does not lay out why, specifically, married women are more likely to seek an abortion. However, Rachel Jones, a senior researcher for the Guttmacher Institute, produced a study in 2012 titled “I Would Want to Give My Child, Like, Everything in the World," which shed light on the issue. She wrote:

Women in the sample had abortions because of the material responsibilities of motherhood, such as the care for their existing children, as well as the more abstract expectations of parenting, such as the desire to provide children with a good home. The women believed that children were entitled to a stable and loving family, financial security, and a high level of care and attention. — Rachel Jones

Abortion in the U.S.

Pro-Choice Pro-Child Pro-Family Heritage Clinic For Women Honk for Choice Protesters April 03, 2014

Married women do not make up the majority of abortion cases in the United States. The vast majority of women, about 85 percent, who get abortions are unmarried, but the data suggest that this could be due to changing views about marriage. About 31 percent of the unmarried abortion patients in the U.S. are living with a significant other, according to the Guttmacher Institute. Although the majority of abortion patients in the U.S. are unmarried, 59 percent had at least one other child.

These numbers sharply contrast with popular media narratives about abortion.

As Amanda Marcotte wrote for the American Prospect wrote on the 40th Anniversary of Roe V. Wade, media narratives about abortion are dominated by young, single women:

But one thing that hasn’t changed since 1973 is the public image of what a typical abortion patient looks like: A middle-class, white high-school or college student with no children whose bright future could be derailed by motherhood. Hollywood portrayals of abortion patients are few and far between, but largely reinforce this understanding; Juno, Friday Night Lights, and Parenthood all focused on characters from this demographic. — Amanda Marcotte, The American Prospect

In America, and around the globe, actual abortion patients often don't look like what's portrayed on the big screen.

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