Each year in the United States, about 926,000 abortions take place, which account for about 20% (1 in 5) of pregnancies in our nation. Sixty-five percent of these abortions are occurring when the woman is seven weeks pregnant or more. The pro-life movement has successfully reduced the number of abortions, but they have not been able to end it.
As we seek strategy for the continuing fights, it’s important to identity who has abortions. Who are the women we need to reach with the message that the unborn child’s life is valuable?
FACT: Not every state reports abortion by ethnicity, but those that do reveal that abortions to blacks and Hispanic women account for 55.4% of the 405,795 abortions reported by race. This number is disproportionate considering the fact that black and Hispanic women only comprise roughly 29% of the total U.S. population.
ACTION: Given the number of minority babies aborted, we need to expose abortion as a form of racism that may be targeting minority women for profit. This also creates a demographic disaster for minority populations.
ACTION: Women who obtain abortions are mostly young women in their 20s trying to forge their way through the responsibilities of adult life. They may be putting off childbearing until they feel more stable. It’s important to support women who are young and pregnant, so they don’t look to abortion as their only option.
FACT: Unmarried women account for about 85% of all abortions.
ACTION: Improving marriage rates will lower abortion rates. Few draw the clear, direct connection between the collapse of the institution of marriage and the family and abortion. Churches and policies that support and encourage marriage and parenting will treat the underlying disease, not just abortion — the symptom of a larger problem. Sadly, women without supportive partners often feel like they are left with no choice but to abort the child.
FACT: One of the most surprising facts about abortion is that almost 60% of women obtaining an abortion have already given birth to one or more children! Only 40.3% abort their first child.
ACTION: One would think that having other children would change a mother’s heart to welcome the beauty and joy of mothering. But for some reason, they feel like they cannot handle another child. This speaks to a failure in our culture to make children wanted and mothers supported. If moms feel so overwhelmed they kill their own unborn children, then what are we doing to help them feel less overwhelmed, less alone, and less financially strained? Communities which are truly pro-life will build a culture of life where parenting is not all on the mother’s shoulders, but where fathers and communities help share the load.
FACT: Thirty-seven percent of women obtaining abortions identified as evangelical or Catholic.
ACTION: Though self-identification may be a poor form of measuring religious engagements, these findings show that women getting an abortion are willing to be thought of as religious, but are also still willing to get an abortion. This is a tragic failure of the Church to truly educate women on what it means to trust God’s providence and forgiveness in difficult circumstances.
FACT: Poverty does drive women to abortion. The economic incentive behind the idea that they can pay for an abortion instead of raising a child is a significant driving force behind their “decision,” one they likely feel driven to by these practicalities of not making ends meet. Three out of four women having an abortion are low income and cluster near or below the poverty line.
ACTION: The economic factor behind the abortion decision needs to be met with advocating for policies which reduce poverty and encourage upward mobility.
A Portrait of an Abortion-Minded Woman
If all these statistics are taken together, you may end up with a picture like this.
An African-American woman named Maria is living in Baltimore. She is 23 years old and already has a young two-year-old named Michael. She baptized Michael into the Catholic Church, but hasn’t been to church much since, though she’s always considered herself Catholic. Maria is unmarried and living below the poverty line. Michael’s dad left just before she found out she was pregnant again. She works two jobs, but is shouldered with the responsibility of her son and her aging mother, who is soon going to become unable to care for Michael when Maria’s at work. The cost of childcare and nursing care will be heavy.
At seven weeks pregnant, Maria goes to Planned Parenthood. She is reluctant to go through the trauma of abortion, as she’s heard that it is unpleasant. But she just can’t figure out how to fit another baby into her crumbling world. So she faces it — like everything else in her life lately — alone.
The crisis of girls with stories like this is not that they are particularly desirous of abortion through some ideological feeling of career advancement and reproductive rights and freedoms. Instead, some women who choose abortion feel like they don’t have a choice. Poverty, age, and everything else feels like it’s stacked against them. And although they love children enough to often have already had one, how tragic it is to see that they cannot fathom another? Through strong charity support and the social safety net, girls like Maria need our support and understanding. They need the Church to see them, know them, and act to help them.
Chaney Mullins serves as Special Projects Writer for Concerned Women for America.