Advancing Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights
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Get "In the Know": Questions About Pregnancy, Contraception and Abortion

Characteristics of Women Having Abortions

What is the typical age of a woman having an abortion?

  • The majority of U.S. women having abortions (56%) are in their 20s. (26)

Do women who have an abortion want children?

  • Six in 10 U.S. women having abortions are already mothers. More than half intend to have (more) children in the future. (26)

Do women with religious affiliations have abortions?

  • Nearly eight in 10 U.S. women obtaining an abortion report a religious affiliation (43% are Protestant, 27% Catholic and 8% another religion). Among all women aged 15–44, 51% are Protestant, 28% are Catholic and 5% belong to other religions. (26)

Are there rural-urban differences in abortion?

  • Most reproductive-age women in the United States (79%) live in metropolitan areas; women in these areas account for 88% of all U.S. abortions. (26) Most abortion providers (95%) are also located in metropolitan areas, increasing access to abortion there. (31)

What is the racial or ethnic background of women who have abortions?

  • No racial or ethnic group makes up a majority of women having abortions: 41% are white, 32% are black and 20% are Hispanic. (26)

What racial or ethnic group has the highest abortion rate?

  • The overall abortion rate is 21 per 1,000 U.S. women (i.e., each year 2.1% of all women of reproductive age have an abortion). Black and Hispanic women have higher abortion rates than non-Hispanic white women do. (The rates are 49 per 1,000 and 33 per 1,000 among black and Hispanic women, respectively, vs. 13 per 1,000 among non-Hispanic white women.) (26) Black and Hispanic women have higher abortion rates primarily because they have higher rates of unintended pregnancy. (3)

What are the trends in the characteristics of women having abortions?

  • Over time, women having abortions have become increasingly likely to be poor, nonwhite and unmarried, and to already have one or more children. (32,26)

Why do women have abortions?

  • Most U.S. women cite more than one factor contributing to their decision to have an abortion: Almost three-quarters say that having a baby would interfere with work, school or other responsibilities; about three-quarters say they cannot afford to have a child; and almost half say they do not want to be a single parent or are having problems with their husband or partner. (33)

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This resource was produced with support from the David and Lucille Packard Foundation and the Roth Family Foundation.