Abortion rate rises among poor women

Those living in poverty are now twice as likely to terminate a pregnancy, says a new report


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Tracy Clark-Flory
May 5, 2010 11:15PM (UTC)

The abortion rate skyrocketed among poor women just as the economy tanked, according to a new study by the Guttmacher Institute. "Characteristics of U.S. Abortion Patients, 2008" reports that poor women's "relative abortion rate was more than twice that of all women in 2008." What's more, "the proportion of abortion patients who were poor increased by almost 60% -- from 27% in 2000 to 42% in 2008." We already knew that the recession has put many women's pregnancy plans on hold at the same time that it has made it harder for women to cover the cost of birth control; and, given that the proportion of women living in poverty has increased by 25 percent since 2000, the Guttmacher findings should come as no real surprise. 

Interestingly enough, the study found that the majority of abortion patients had some form of health insurance, and yet 57 percent paid for the procedure out of pocket. Even among those with private insurance, two-thirds paid for the procedure themselves. One thing researchers do not know, though, is exactly what percentage of those plans denied abortion coverage or carried prohibitively high deductibles. The report does note, however, that "many of the poorest women qualify for Medicaid, but federal funds are restricted to paying for abortion services only in cases of rape, incest and life endangerment, and only a minority of states uses their own funds to cover abortions for low-income women." But, "in states that use their own funds to pay for abortions, 92% of patients with Medicaid coverage made use of this payment method."

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It will be interesting to see how the healthcare bill, which prohibits the use of federal funds for elective abortions, will impact these figures. The most optimistic prediction I can offer is that broader healthcare coverage will mean better access to birth control.


Tracy Clark-Flory

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