The average woman who has an abortion:
- Is single
- Is between 15 and 24 years old
- Does not have any other children
- Lives in poverty
- Is not religious
These are prevalent ideas but only two of them are true. So which are they?
If you guessed A and D, you are correct. While sometimes women who are married or divorced do choose abortion, 86% of the women who have an abortion are single.
In 2014, three-fourths of abortion patients were low income – 49% living at less than the federal poverty level, and 26% living at 100-199% of the poverty level. The women we serve at our First Care Clinic reflect these national demographics.
What about B, C and E?
B is partly true. Women in their 20s are the most likely to have an abortion, accounting for 59% of all abortions in 2013. But next most likely may be a surprise – women between the ages of 30 and 39 accounted for 26% of abortions. Teens accounted for slightly fewer than 12% of abortions. From 2004 to 2013, the percentage of abortions accounted for by adolescents aged 15–19 years decreased 31% and their abortion rate decreased 46%.
As for C and E, in generalities, neither of these statements is true. Surprisingly, nearly 3 out of 5 women (59%) who have an abortion have had at least one previous birth.
It is really easy for us to think that a woman who already has a child would be more likely to carry her next baby to term, because she is already a mother and has a motherly bond with her child. We might ask, how can a mother decide to end the life of her child when she has little one(s) she cares for in her home already?
But most women who have an abortion are already mothers – before this pregnancy. It may be that caring for a second or third child may feel extremely overwhelming when she finds herself pregnant again. Perhaps her youngest child is still a baby – and she does not know how she could care for two children under two.
Or perhaps she is already very aware of the financial considerations that are involved with raising a child. Childcare and diapers are very expensive – and adding another mouth to feed for 18 years may be beyond what she can picture managing.
Possibly she and her other child (or children) are in unsafe housing already and she can’t imagine bringing another child into her chaotic home environment. Having an abortion may feel like the “responsible” choice when all of the challenging factors are weighed in the balance.
But whatever her reasons, a pregnant mother of a born child or children is at least as likely as a woman who has not been pregnant before to feel that abortion is her only or best option.
And what about E, her religion? 70% of women who have an abortion indicate their religious preference is Christian.
Well, you might say, surely most of those women aren’t actually Christians. They don’t really go to church or read their Bibles or pray. For some, that is certainly the case. However, 36% of women were attending a Christian church once a month or more at the time of their first abortion. (And more than two-thirds of those women were attending church about once a week or more than once a week.)
The numbers do not lie. Religious women, including Christian women, are having abortions.
So what do we do with all of this?
First, rethink your ideas of who the woman is who may have an abortion. She is probably single and in her twenties. She may be struggling to make ends meet. And she might be a mother in a pew near you.
Second, learn how to respond when a woman you know is unexpectedly pregnant or shares with you she is considering abortion. Check out our 5 Ways to Help a Friend who might be pregnant resources – and be watching for future blog posts about how to help and respond when a friend, daughter or co-worker is pregnant and trying to figure out what to do.