Article Text

More than poverty: disruptive events among women having abortions in the USA
  1. Rachel K Jones1,
  2. Lori Frohwirth2,
  3. Ann M Moore3
  1. 1Senior Research Associate, Guttmacher Institute, New York, NY, USA
  2. 2Research Associate, Guttmacher Institute, New York, NY, USA
  3. 3Senior Research Associate, Guttmacher Institute, New York, NY, USA
  1. Correspondence to Dr Rachel K Jones, Guttmacher Institute, 125 Maiden Lane, 7th Floor, New York, NY 10038, USA; rjones{at}


Background In the USA, abortion has become increasingly concentrated among poor women. For many, poverty represents difficulties meeting financial obligations, but the authors expect it is also associated with a range of potentially difficult life circumstances that may influence women's pregnancy decisions.

Methods This mixed methods study relied on two data sources. Quantitative data came from a national sample of 9493 women obtaining abortions in 2008 and examined exposure to 11 potentially disruptive events. The authors also examined associations between disruptive events, poverty status and contraceptive use. Qualitative information from 49 in-depth interviews was used to provide insights into patterns that emerged from the quantitative analysis.

Results More than half (57%) of the women obtaining abortions experienced a potentially disruptive event within the last year, most commonly unemployment (20%), separation from a partner (16%), falling behind on rent/mortgage (14%) and/or moving multiple times (12%). Poverty status was significantly associated with several of the events, particularly those that could directly impact on a family's economic circumstances, for example losing a job or having a baby. Information from the in-depth interviews suggested that disruptive events interfered with contraceptive use, but the quantitative survey found no difference in contraceptive use by exposure to disruptive life events, even after controlling for poverty status.

Conclusion Many abortion patients make decisions about their pregnancies in the midst of complex life circumstances.

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  • Funding Funding for data collection and analysis were provided by an anonymous donor.

  • Competing interests None.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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