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In a study released this month investigating the source of class gaps in unintended births, Brookings Institution researchers found that low-income women are more likely to experience an unintended pregnancy because not only are they less likely to use contraception—they are also less likely to get an abortion.
The study used data from the National Survey of Family Growth to look at 3, single women between the ages of 15 and 44 who said they were not trying to get pregnant. Among women who experienced unplanned pregnancies, The authors attribute this class gap in abortion rates to problems of knowledge and accessibility, citing prohibitive costs for poor women who must pay out of pocket, regulations on abortion providers that have reduced the of providers, and required waiting periods.
Is it possible that poor women are more pro-life than their affluent peers, and that these beliefs also contribute to the differences in abortion rates? There is some national survey data that suggests this might be the case. When asked if the government should fund abortion services for poor women, those in the lowest income bracket were no more supportive than other respondents, RAND found. Is it possible that poor women are less likely to get abortions because they are more pro-life than their affluent peers?
In my own qualitative interviews with young women ages in southwestern Ohio I noticed a similar relationship between views on abortion and education level. Furthermore, about half of the 26 percent of women with no college degree who were pro-choice qualified their responses by saying that they personally would not consider an abortion, even though they support other women who make that choice, leaving only 11 percent who said that they would consider abortion as an option for themselves personally. If you are going around doing adult things, you should be able to take on the adult consequences.
This kind of emphasis on personal responsibility was common among high school—educated respondents.
So, I mean, if that happens, it happens. One single woman wept quietly when telling me about the abortion she had when her youngest children twins were still infants. For another young woman, abortion created a missing child, a new face on the milk carton in her mind. And I know that she thinks about it…. High school—educated respondents were more likely to talk about abortion with a kind of moral outrage. High school—educated respondents were also more likely to talk about abortion with a kind of moral outrage.
One that could have been the person that cures cancer or the next big athlete or the next billionaire or whatever. For the poor and working-class women I interviewed, abortion was primarily a moral issue, not a religious one. It also was not a political issue. Most women did not voice strong opinions about changing abortion laws, no matter what they thought about abortion. Contrast these strong anti-abortion views with those of the college-educated women I interviewed.
The exception was those college-educated women who regularly attend church and who told me that they were against abortion in all or most circumstances. A related stat is that 76 percent of adolescents with highly educated mothers indicate that they would be embarrassed by a teenage pregnancy, compared to 61 percent of adolescents with moderately educated mothers and 48 percent of adolescents with mothers who did not graduate from high school.
Interestingly enough, the poor and working-class women I interviewed were less likely than their more privileged peers to bring up financial instability as a reason for abortion. This may be because it is the norm for them to see other women with few resources raising children and somehow getting by. Some poor women resented the assumption that they needed to get an abortion and the pressure they felt to do so.
Furthermore, these women told me stories unprompted about how they resented the assumption that they needed to get an abortion and the pressure they felt from partners, family, and friends to do so. And I got kinda mad at her for that.
But it was never an option. It was never, ever an option…. It never crossed my mind, ever. Take that how you will. Despite the social pressure, each of these women carried their babies to term, which suggests that their beliefs about abortion were not just theoretical, but deeply held. On the other hand, only one woman I interviewed recounted a story about feeling pressure to not have an abortion one side of her family wanted her to put the baby up for adoption, the other wanted her to get an abortionnor did anyone bring up accessibility issues, like waiting periods or cost when I asked about abortion.
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Why Poor Women with Unintended Pregnancies Are Less Likely to Get Abortions