Why do women choose to have an abortion?
The reasons why a woman decides to terminate her pregnancy are extremely personal and complex. We look at the reasons for abortion and the benefits of abortion access.
If you’re thinking of having an abortion, you’re not alone. One out of every 3 to 4 women in the US and Canada have an abortion. It’s more common than some people may believe, and there are many reasons why women decide to get an abortion. According to the Turnaway Study, women who choose abortion because they:
are not financially ready for a child (40%)
are not at the right time in their life for a baby (36%)
are not willing to parent (or parent again) with their current partner (31%)
need to focus on their other children (29%)
feel that having a baby would interfere with future opportunities (20%)
are not emotionally or mentally prepared for a baby (19%)
have health-related reasons (12%)
want a better life for the baby than the mothers could provide (12%)
are not independent or mature enough for a baby (7%)
have family or friends who are against (or also against) keeping the pregnancy (5%)
don’t want a baby and don’t want to put the baby up for adoption (4%)
No matter the reason, a woman’s choice deserves our understanding and respect.
Getting pregnant is not your “fault”
For those in partnered relationships, getting pregnant when you didn’t intend to have a child is quite common. Sure, it is less likely to occur if you’re on birth control and if you are using it perfectly, but only roughly 20% of people use their contraception perfectly, and birth control can still fail.
So if you’re feeling like you need to shoulder 100% of the responsibility for your pregnancy, don’t. Release yourself from that pressure. Your partner and science play a role and neither are perfect either. Give yourself the support and kindness that you’d give someone else in this situation and forgive the rest.
Your choice is valid
My patients understandably have some feelings of fear and guilt around their decision and the abortion process, all of which are completely normal. How a woman experiences her abortion journey – from making her decision to going through and recovering from the procedure, varies incredibly from one patient to anotother. As care providers, my team and I make it our priority to surround our patients with empathy and compassion.
I’ve witnessed how having access to safe abortion procedures benefits almost all women who need it. My patients have a good understanding of their own personal reasons for going through with their decision to terminate.
Scientific research shows that women who proceed with their decision to have an abortion experience the outcomes they were hoping for. The Turnaway Study (2013) points out that women who received the abortions they wanted were more financially stable, were less likely to be experiencing abuse from their partner if the partner was abusive, and were better able to care for their existing children compared to women who were denied abortion services.
They also had a higher rate of intended pregnancy within the subsequent five years of the study, and were physically and emotionally better off than women who were denied abortions.
Abortion is safer than delivery
The risks of abortion (failure to complete the procedure, retained products after the procedure, bleeding, infection, damage to the womb, infertility, or possible death, for example) are the same as the risks of delivering a newborn.
The difference between abortion and delivery is that these risks occur far less often after abortions than they do after deliveries.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that, from 1998 to 2001, the most common complications associated with pregnancy ‒ including high blood pressure, urinary tract infections and mental health conditions ‒ happened more often in women who had a live birth than those who got an abortion. The Turnaway Study confirmed these findings as well.
If we think of deliveries as overall safe processes (which they are with modern day medical and midwife care) then we should have even more confidence in the safety of abortions. Legal abortions are extremely unlikely to have any long-term consequences. In fact, uncomplicated abortions don't affect fertility, future pregnancy complications or maternal health.
Most women feel well after a wanted abortion
Thoughts and emotions are complex before, during and after an abortion. This is natural, since abortion connects to a woman’s journey throughout her reproductive life and well into the future. There is no “normal path” across this time in someone’s life.
What’s reassuring to know is that while the abortion journey is initially complex and difficult, with the passage of time, most women feel increasingly positive and at peace about their decision to terminate, as well as keeping the pregnancy if this was their path.
Need help with your decision?
Contact us and we can help you assess how far along you are in your pregnancy and guide you with your options.
Ralph LJ, Schwarz EB, Grossman D, Foster DG . Self-reported Physical Health of Women Who Did and Did Not Terminate Pregnancy After Seeking Abortion Services: A Cohort Study. Ann Intern Med. 2019; 171(4):238. Epub 2019 Jun 11.
Raymond, E.R., Grimes, D.A. The comparative safety of legal induced abortion and childbirth in the United States. Obstetrics & Gynecology; February 2012; Vol.119(2):215-219
Did you know you can get OHIP-covered counselling?
If you’re thinking about having an abortion and need some support, you can access OHIP-covered counselling through:
Planned Parenthood Toronto (416) 961-0113
Birth Mark (416) 479-0086
Bay Centre for Birth Control (416) 351-3700