Staring down at a positive pregnancy test, a hundred thoughts and questions run through your mind. How did this happen? What do I do now? Am I ready to be a mother?
Should I get an abortion?
If this question has crossed your mind, know that you are not alone. It’s estimated that nearly half of pregnancies in the United States are unplanned, which means millions of women have been faced with the same decision you’re making now.
You are the only person who can make a decision about your unplanned pregnancy options, and your reasons for abortion, adoption or parenting will be very personal to you. However, it can sometimes be helpful to know that there are other women out there who have been in your shoes — and while each one has her own personal reasons for the choice she made, studies have shown that there are some shared reasons why women get abortions.
As you consider your own circumstances and weigh your unplanned pregnancy options, read on to learn more about some of the common reasons why women have abortions.
Why Do People Have Abortions?
In most cases, a woman doesn’t have a single reason for abortion; instead, a number of factors may lead her to decide that abortion is the best option in her circumstances.
Social factors — like a woman’s age, marital status, current life circumstances and future goals — all can play a role in her abortion decision. Other times, a woman chooses abortion for financial or medical reasons, or because she feels pressure from someone in her life to choose abortion.
The most important thing to remember is that every woman’s reasons for abortion will be different, and it’s impossible to fully understand the circumstances each woman is facing that leads her to her abortion decision. However, here are some of the common reasons why women have abortions, according to a survey conducted by the Guttmacher Institute:
Social Reasons for Abortions
Why do women get abortions? Almost always, women choose abortion in response to an unplanned or unwanted pregnancy. Oftentimes, an unplanned pregnancy happens at a less-than-ideal time, and women may choose abortion for one (or more) of the following reasons:
- A baby would have a drastic impact on their current life. According to the Guttmacher Institute, nearly three-quarters of women who choose abortion do so because “having a baby would dramatically change life,” either by interfering with their education, their career or the lives of their other children.
- They are having relationship problems with the baby’s father. Nearly half of women (48 percent) also cited relationship problems or a desire to avoid single motherhood as one of their abortion reasons.
- They are done having children. Other women reported feeling that they had already completed their families and were not interested in having more children at the time of their unplanned pregnancy.
- They are not ready to have a baby at their age or maturity level. Some of the younger women surveyed chose abortion in part because they felt they were too young or immature to raise a child. A small percentage of women chose abortion because they did not want their parents or other family members to know that they were sexually active.
These social factors are often the biggest reasons why women choose abortion. In fact, when asked about their number one reason for choosing abortion, the most common response from women was because they felt they simply weren’t ready for a child. For 25 percent of women surveyed, this was the most important of many reasons to have an abortion.
If you are facing an unplanned pregnancy, these are just some of the reasons you might be thinking, “I want an abortion” or “I need an abortion.” But in addition to these social factors, you may have financial, medical or other personal reasons for considering abortion, as well.
Financial Reasons for Abortion
Having a baby is expensive, and raising that baby to adulthood is even more expensive. In addition to the various medical costs associated with pregnancy and childbirth, it costs an average of $245,000 to raise a child to age 18. Many women become pregnant before they are prepared for these expenses and choose abortion for financial reasons.
In fact, financial concerns often play a role in a woman’s decision for abortion. The Guttmacher Institute survey found that nearly three-quarters of women (73 percent) chose abortion in part because they felt they could not afford a baby at that particular time in their lives.
Many women are concerned about the costs of raising a baby because:
- They are unmarried and concerned about affording a baby on one income.
- They are pursuing higher education (or planning to pursue higher education) and can’t afford the costs of raising a baby while being a full-time student.
- They are unemployed.
- They feel they can’t afford to adequately care for themselves and their children.
In fact, 23 percent of survey respondents said that not being able to afford a baby was the most important of their reasons to get an abortion.
Medical Reasons for Abortion
While most women choose abortion to end an unplanned pregnancy, there are times when a doctor may recommend a medically necessary abortion due to severe health conditions of the mother or developing baby. In these cases, a woman may choose to have an abortion even if her pregnancy was initially planned.
According to the Guttmacher Institute, only a small proportion of all abortions are completed because of health concerns or fetal abnormalities:
- 13 percent of the women surveyed cited possible problems affecting the health of the fetus as one of their reasons for abortion.
- 12 percent of women listed concerns about their own health as a reason for choosing abortion.
- In only 7 percent of cases, these health concerns were a woman’s most important reason for choosing abortion.
According to the Guttmacher Institute, of the women who were concerned about their health during pregnancy, they wrote in various health problems, from chronic conditions like cancer and cystic fibrosis to pregnancy-specific concerns like gestational diabetes and morning sickness.
Other Reasons for Abortion
While social and financial concerns are the most common reasons why women have abortions, there are also some other, less common (but just as valid) reasons why a woman might choose abortion:
- Pressure from others. Some women choose abortion because they feel pressured to do so by the baby’s father, their parents or other people in their lives. However, this is very uncommon; only 0.5 percent of women surveyed by the Guttmacher Institute indicated this was the most important factor influencing their abortion decision. If you are in a position where you are feeling pressured to choose abortion, adoption or parenting against your will, know that you are the only person who knows what’s best for you and your baby, and you are the only person who can make a decision about your unplanned pregnancy options. If you feel like you could be in a potentially dangerous or abusive situation if you go against the wishes of your baby’s father, your parents or someone else in your life, seek professional help right away.
- Non-consensual sex. A woman may choose abortion if conception was the result of rape or sexual assault. One percent of survey respondents cited this as their most important reason for abortion.
This is in no way a comprehensive list of the reasons why women choose abortion; these are just a few of the many complex factors that a woman might consider when making the difficult decision to have an abortion.
Why Do Women Have Abortions Instead of Choosing Adoption?
For every 149 women who choose abortion, only one decides to place her baby for adoption. When looking at the reasons to choose abortion, it’s natural to wonder: Why do people get abortions so much more frequently? Why abortion when adoption is an option?
First of all, it’s important to understand that many women do not view adoption as an alternative to abortion. Birth mothers who choose adoption experience all the joys, challenges and effects of pregnancy and childbirth, while women who choose abortion do not. A woman might choose abortion over adoption because she does not want others to know about her pregnancy or because she does not want to experience the physical and mental effects of pregnancy.
However, it’s also possible that some women choose abortion instead of adoption simply because they know more about abortion than adoption, or because abortion seems like a more convenient option. But in reality, women who choose adoption do so for many of the same reasons that women commonly choose abortion:
- They aren’t ready to raise a baby. The majority of women choose abortion because they aren’t ready to raise a baby (or another baby) at the time of their unplanned pregnancy. However, adoption is another, often overlooked option for women who are pregnant but unable to parent.
- They are working toward personal goals. Many women who choose abortion do so because having a baby would interfere with their education or career goals, but adoption can also be a positive choice for women who aren’t ready to put their own plans on hold to raise a child.
- They do not want to be single mothers. Adoption and abortion are both options for women who do not want to raise a child on their own.
- They cannot afford to raise a baby. Adoption is another option for women who are struggling financially; in fact, adoption is completely free to expectant mothers, and oftentimes, prospective birth mothers can get help paying for certain living expenses during pregnancy, including rent, groceries, maternity clothes and more.
As with abortion, every woman’s situation is different, and there are many other reasons why an expectant mother might choose adoption over abortion or parenting: adoption allows birth mothers to watch their babies grow up, gives them an opportunity to fulfill another family’s dream of becoming parents, and is always an option for every woman facing an unplanned pregnancy — even if it is too late to have an abortion.
Ultimately, adoption is not a “better” or “worse” choice than abortion. Whatever a woman’s reasons for choosing abortion over adoption (or vice versa), she is the only person who can make a fully informed decision about her options.
Should I Have an Abortion?
There is only one way to answer this question. An article you read online can’t answer it for you — and neither can your parents, friends, other family members or even your baby’s father. Whatever your reasons are for considering abortion, know that they are valid, and that this is ultimately a choice only you can make.
However, that doesn’t mean that you are alone. Remember, millions of women have asked this same question, and there is help available to you. If you are struggling to make a decision about your unplanned pregnancy options, consider reaching out to a professional options counselor for unbiased information and support.