Coercion and Abortion

By Sass
Featured Rightgrrl May 1999
January 10, 1999

Recently, a comment from a "pro-choicer" led me to put pen to paper, or rather fingers to the keyboard. The comment was in reply to comments made by pro-lifers, referring to a belief that often, women choose abortion because they are pressured to feel that they must. The "pro-choicer" replying stated that "I have a very big problem w/this because what I see be stated is that women simply cannot make decisions on their own and that they are easily forced into making the wrong decision when it comes to ending a pregnancy. Women are NOT victims and I think that it is very patronizing that this is so easily used by those in the pro-life movement. Are there naive girls out there, not sure of WHAT decision to make - you bet! But, I also think that the majority of women who have abortions KNOW what they are doing and KNOW that is what they want to do. Furthermore, any woman who has an abortion because of pressure by a man in her life is simply not being true to herself and I feel that this type of women may be easily manipulated regardless of the situation"

In order to reply to this, I went looking for some statistics. I didn't have to go farther than the Alan Guttmacher Institute to find them. All statistics herein, indicated with italics as being such, are from said source.

I personally believe, that if you took the comments made in this statement, and reversed them, the statement would be far more accurate. Certainly there are women who KNOW what they are doing, KNOW what they want, and that abortion is exactly what they want, but I suspected it is these women that are in the minority, not the majority.

The results of the 1995 survey show that the women who are most likely to obtain an abortion have an annual income of less than $15,000, are enrolled in Medicaid, are aged 18≠24, are nonwhite or Hispanic, are separated or never-married, live with a partner outside marriage and have no religious affiliation.

These factors speak to us of the fact that while some of the "pro-choice" persuasion would like to paint a picture of us patronizing to the women who have abortions, and some of them would have us believe that the majority of these women are choosing abortion because they WANT them, and not because there are pressures placed upon them that force them to see abortion as "the lesser evil", the statistics tell another story.

The vast majority of respondents cited a variety of socioeconomic and family considerations as their main reasons for seeking an abortion. Most of the women reported that more than one factor contributed to their decision, with the average number of reasons being four. However, 3% of respondents said that the "most important reason" for their decision was concern for their own health, and another 3% cited concern that the fetus had a health problem.

Here, we see that only a total of 6% in the survey, cited health of themselves or the fetus as the reason for choosing abortion. That leaves 94% of those choosing abortion as having done so for socioeconomic reasons, often more than one. This again, shows that while the woman may be choosing abortion, it is not entirely because she WANTS the abortion, as much as it is because socioeconomic factors obviously make abortion the lesser evil.

Now, before going any further, we need to see who is having abortions.

Half of the 6.3 million pregnancies in the U.S. are unintended

Of those unintended pregnancies:

- 1.43 million abortions
- 0.93 million miscarriages
- 1.24 million mistimed/unwanted births

It is apparent then, that the vast majority of abortions are the result of unintended pregnancies as opposed to intended pregnancies. Who then, is becoming unintendedly pregnant and why are there so many unintended pregnancies? Well, when the pro-life side cries irresponsibility, we are summarily chastised by the other side, and given forty sound lashings with the noodle of "contraceptive failure causing unwanted pregnancy in otherwise responsible people". The statistics again, don't support that.

More than 3 million unintended pregnancies occur every year in the United States. The 3 million women who use no contraceptives account for almost half of these pregnancies (47%), while the 39 million method users account for 53%. The majority of unintended pregnancies among contraceptive users result from inconsistent or incorrect use.

Now, according to the statistics from AGI, almost half (47%) of the more than 3 million unintended pregnancies are a result of no contraceptive use at all, while slightly more than half (53%) are the result of contraceptive use. AGI also goes on to say that the majority of pregnancies resulting from contraceptive use are a result of inconsistent or incorrect use. More still, is that:

Some of the failure is due to the methods themselves, but most is a result of the difficulties that individual women confront in incorporating the task of contraceptive use into their everyday lives; over half of all women practicing contraception use a method that requires ongoing attention (as opposed to surgical sterilization). They include women who rely on oral contraceptives as well as those using intercourse-related methods such as the condom and the diaphragm.

Yet, because of the enormous effort involved in practicing contraception continuously and effectively for more than two decades, almost half of all American women will have had at least one abortion by the time they are 45. It might seem contradictory to some and appear to be the "smoking gun" to others that the U.S. abortion rate (26 abortions per 1,000 women of reproductive age) is high by industrialized-country standards, even though 90% of women use a method. The explanation is that most of the unintended pregnancies and a disproportionate share of the resulting abortions occur among the 10% of women who use no method of birth control (such as teenagers having early sexual experiences) or use one only sporadically. The remaining abortions result among women trying to prevent an unwanted pregnancy whose contraceptive fails.

Unintended pregnancies among women who do not use a method are almost as likely to end in abortion as in birth
- 13% miscarriage
- 44% birth
- 43% abortion

I personally, fail to see where all these "responsible" women are. Granted, contraception fails, but statistics have shown that their failure is more often the result of incorrect or inconsistent use, and that does not, an example of responsibility make.

Having established according to the statistics provided by AGI, who is having abortions and why, we may go back to the original premise I am at odds with, premise being that most women want the abortion and know what they have chosen. In addition to the statistics given regarding socioeconomic reasons, the AGI also provided this:

The reasons most often given by teens for choosing to have an abortion are concern about how having a baby would change their lives, feeling that they are not mature enough to have a child and having financial problems.

The women having abortions after 15 weeks attributed their lateness in obtaining the procedure to not having realized earlier that they were pregnant (or how long they had been pregnant), having had difficulty in arranging the abortion and (in the case of teenagers) having been afraid to tell their parents they were pregnant.

Again, yes, keeping a baby would change their life, and certainly many teens aren't mature enough to have a child. Certainly a child would impose financial problems even, but these are all issues that can be resolved with adoption, should we as a society encourage that instead of abortion. Noting that many mid to late term abortions are a result of teens baing afraid to tell... and knowing that:

-Each year, almost one million teenage women^◊11% of all women aged 15^÷19 and 20% of those who have had sexual intercourse^◊become pregnant.
-78% of teen pregnancies are unplanned, accounting for about 1/4 of all accidental pregnancies annually.
-In part because most teen mothers come from disadvantaged backgrounds, 28% of them are poor in their 20s andearly 30s; only 7% of women who first give birth after adolescence are poor at those ages.

I would hardly say that it's accurate to give one's self the impression that most women know what they want, and that what they want is in fact an abortion. The statistics speak louder than any "pro-choice" ideal, and that is that given all these factors, women may be choosing abortion because they "want" it, but let's not for a minute fool ourselves into thinking that this "want", isn't because of pressure. Whether that pressure is direct, as in a direct imposed consequence if she doesn't have an abortion (ie/abuse, eviction from a parental home, abandonment, etc.) or whether that pressure is socioeconomical... it is pressure no less.

Does this mean that I think that the majority of women I feel are then making a decision to abort are naive, unable to make decisions on their own? Certainly not. What I am saying, is that women have been pressured in more ways than just the stereotypical abuse situation. If these claims that most women abort because they know they want one, and know what they're doing were true, I shudder to think what a worlit would be. My vision of our world is certainly not through rose colored glasses. We have many ills to correct, but I do not for a minute, think that one of them is that there are millions of women out there procuring abortion because they simply want them. I prefer to pay heed to the statistics that show that while the pressure may not always be blatant and violent; socioeconomic pressure is still pressure and were it not there, many of these women may NOT choose abortion.

"No woman wants an abortion as she wants an ice cream cone or a Porsche. She wants an abortion as an animal, caught in a trap, wants to gnaw off its own leg. Abortion is a tragic attempt to escape a desperate situation by an act of violence and self-loss." - Frederica Mathewes-Green

And with this, I say that to all those that wish to assume that because we as pro-lifers recognize that abortion is anti-woman because it fosters a mentality within a society that said society does not have to deal with the socioeconomic pressures that do indeed "force" a woman to see abortion as the lesser evil, that we are patronizing women and assuming they can't think for themselves; I say that you simply do not understand. Abortion is not pro-woman, pro-child or pro-family, and perhaps the patronizing is done by those who would have women think that their choice for abortion is NOT one that they've been pressured into.

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This article copyright © 1999 by Sass and may not be reproduced in any form without the express written consent of its author. All rights reserved.