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Women of all reproductive ages, socioeconomic and marital status, and racial and ethnic groups have abortions. African American women account for a significant number of those electing abortions. Women seek abortions for a variety of reasons. An unintended birth can have a serious impact on women and their families, posing financial and emotional hardships. Lack of social support from a partner or family members may also be a factor. A young woman may decide that she is too young to take on the responsibility of parenting, which can delay educational attainment and employment opportunities. The health of the woman and/or the health of fetus may also be a deciding factor. In cases of rape or incest, abortion may be considered the best option.


The Project supports a woman’s right to make decisions about if and when she will have children. The right to an abortion is constitutionally protected and continues to be an integral issue for Black women’s reproductive health and rights. Safe and legal abortions should be an option for all women.


Facts About Abortion


Of the approximately 3.04 million unintended pregnancies each year, 47% end in abortion. American women have an abortion rate two times higher than other Western democracies. Forty-three percent of American women will have at least one abortion by age 45.


Women who are most likely to have an abortion are Black women aged 18-24 who are either separated or unmarried and have an annual income of less than $15,000, or have Medicaid. These women are twice as likely to have abortions compared to the general population.


Women of color are approximately twice as likely to have an abortion as White women.


Of the unplanned pregnancies that end in abortion, there has been in increase among women aged 20 and older. Rates among teenagers have decreased; they are more likely than older women to continue an unplanned pregnancy.


Ninety percent of women have abortions in the first trimester; 50% are performed in the first eight weeks of pregnancy. Approximately .01% occur after 24 weeks.

Childbirth has a greater risk of death than abortion. Less than 1% of individuals experience major complications with abortions.


Factors Impacting Access to Abortions


Cost is a factor for poor women as the average cost of an abortion is $275 and can go as high as $1,000 depending on gestational age. Many women pay out of pocket for this procedure, as insurance providers may not cover the service. In addition, a woman’s confidentiality may be compromised if insurance is utilized for this purpose.


Public funding of abortion is primarily supported through state funding and few states allow abortion funding. Federal monies, i.e., Medicaid, cannot be used to finance an abortion unless a woman’s life is in danger or if the pregnancy resulted from incest or rape.


In some states, women under 18 are precluded from abortion without parental consent or notice.


Abortion is the only medical procedure that has a “conscience clause” which gives medical providers the ability to omit discussions about abortion options if they so choose.

Some states ban abortion in public facilities. In addition, the merging of hospital systems with religious-based hospital systems may also limit abortion services to women.


Intimidation factors associated with the abortion facility such as violent attacks on abortion clinics and public protests place the lives of women and clinic personnel in danger. Since 1977, there have been approximately 2,100 reported instances of violence against abortion providers including six murders and 15 attempted murders.


There is a shortage of abortion providers. Eighty-four percent of all U.S. counties and 94% of all rural U.S. counties have no abortion provider. Between 1988 and 1992, the number of U.S. hospital providing abortions decreased by 18%.


The location of facilities providing abortion services to women poses a barrier to services. One in ten women seeking abortion outside a hospital had to travel over 100 miles for services in 1993.


Alan Guttmacher Institute, Facts in Brief: Induced Abortion, 1996.

Henshaw, Stanley. “Factors Hindering Access to Abortion Services.” Family Planning Perspectives 27 (1995) 54-599.

Henshaw, Stanley. “Unintended Pregnancy in the United States.” Family Planning Perspectives 30 (1998) 24-46.

National Abortion Federation, “NAF Violence & Disruption Statistics,” 1997.

Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Inc., 1998.


Philadelphia Black Women's Health Project © 2002