The Guttmacher Institute’s new study, entitled “Characteristics of U.S. Abortion Patients, 2008,” reveals a dramatic increase in the percentage of women living below the poverty line who obtain abortion care. The proportion of poor women who chose to have abortions increased by almost 60%—from 27% in 2000 to 42% in 2008.
Guttmacher attributes this drastic change to a few different issues: a striking (25%) increase in the number of women and children living below the poverty level or in severe poverty, a dearth of access to family planning information and affordable birth control in low-income communities, and difficulty in using insurance to pay for abortion care. Although an admirable effort has recently been made by family planning clinics and abortion providers to make their services more affordable to low-income women, the staggering need for services requires serious action. Sharon L. Camp, president and CEO of the Guttmacher Institute, notes:
“...reproductive health disparities and health disparities more generally, are endemic in this country and stem from broader, persistent economic and social inequities. We need to bridge these reproductive health gaps by ensuring that all women, regardless of their economic circumstances, have meaningful access to the full spectrum of information and services—both contraceptive services to reduce levels of unintended pregnancy and abortion services.”
“The Characteristics of U.S. Abortion Patients, 2008” shows us the many obstacles barring poor and low-income women when it comes to issues of reproductive health and family planning. Thankfully, there are clinics and health care professionals willing to give some subsidies to women in need of birth control and abortions, but even these efforts cannot entirely address the inequities that women in low-income communities face. As Sharon L. Camp noted, it is a systemic problem that must be addressed by making these services available to everyone, not just those with means.
For more information on the Guttmacher study, check out Guttmacher’s website (linked above) and Jodi Jacobson’s detailed analysis at RH Reality Check.