Study Finds Higher Abortion Rates Among Affluent Women

A recent study released by the Brookings Institution in Washington finds that single women whose income is 400 percent of the federal poverty line or higher are nearly four times as likely to opt for an abortion when faced with an unplanned pregnancy.

The findings contradict earlier statements by the Guttmacher Institute, the research arm of Planned Parenthood, saying that women with family incomes at or above 200 percent of the poverty line "have a rate of nine abortions per 1,000, which is about half the national rate."


In 2015, the federal poverty rate ranges from $11,770 for a single individual to $24,250 for a family of four.

The Brookings paper, released in February, indicates that while there is no difference in rates of sexual activity across different income groups, single women who make four times the federal poverty level have an abortion rate of 31.9 percent while those at or below the line have a rate of only 8.6 percent.

This means that a single woman making over $47,000 is over 370 percent more likely to abort her unplanned child than the 91.4 percent of single women making less than $11,770 per year, who, statistically, will carry the child to term.

While the study goes on to prescribe policy suggestions, including expanding the federal health care contraceptive mandate and removing federal policies that prohibit Medicaid from covering abortions, the authors do cite a sociological study that states that "a baby -- even when unplanned -- is a great source of fulfillment in low-income communities."

The authors also cite work that suggests that "women with limited economic prospects will control their fertility less carefully, because they have less to lose," suggesting that the primary engine for women of higher incomes to terminate a pregnancy is simple convenience.

The study also shows that, despite difference in incomes, contraceptive rates and abortion rates, "there are no obvious differences by income" in how the 3,800 women surveyed responded to the question: "If you got pregnant right now, how would you feel?"

About two-thirds of the single female respondents in each income group said they would be "very upset" or "a little upset" by an unplanned pregnancy. The other third said they would not be upset.

The statistics suggest that when two women of vastly different economic means are faced with an unplanned pregnancy, the one with the much higher income is nearly four times as likely to choose to abort her unborn child, and most likely citing economic convenience.

"It is disturbing that those who compare access to abortion based on financial status continue to rest on the assumption that it's a good, and that therefore having access to it is better than not having such access," Father Frank Pavone, national director of Priests for Life, told Catholic News Service, when asked his reaction to the report.

"Wealthier people have a lot more access to a lot of things, both good and bad," he said. "But if one can't tell the difference between good and bad in the first place, it is dangerous to start drawing conclusions about changing public policy based on who has more access to the service in question."

Janet Morana, Priests for Life's executive director, added: "The news revealed in this study is not that poorer women have a harder time accessing and affording abortion but that, according to the authors, they 'are intrinsically less motivated' to abort their children.

"In other words, their children are wanted children even if they were not planned," she said. "The fact that more affluent women, with 'more to lose' are having more abortions should be the concern here."

The study's author said they drew on data on single women from the National Survey of Family Growth collected from 2011 to 2013.

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