What Kind Of Woman Has A Second Trimester Abortion?


While we know that 9 out of 10 abortions in the US occur very early in a pregnancy. But we didn't know much about the sort of woman who has an abortion after she's moved into her second trimester. Until now.

Guttmacher Institute researchers conducted analysis of more than 9,493 women who terminated their pregnancies after the 12th week of gestation in 2008. They found that women who receive second trimester abortions tend to be young, uneducated, poor, and black, until 16 weeks' gestation. After that point, the demographics shift: women receiving abortions at 16 weeks or later tend to be high income and using health insurance to pay for the procedure. The age group most likely to receive a second trimester abortion were 18 and 19 year olds.

Because the cost of an abortion increases as the weeks pass, women with high incomes or good health coverage would be more likely to be able to afford a procedure after 16 weeks, which can cost up to $10,000 without insurance. Teens and women with low levels of education might have later term abortions because of a lack of knowledge about their options or access to reproductive health services, or because it takes them some time to secure the money necessary to obtain an abortion.

Researchers noted that in general, the likelihood that a woman would have an abortion at 13 weeks or later is inversely proportional to the woman's poverty status and level of education; that is, the poorer and less educated a woman was, the greater the chance was that she'd have a second trimester abortion.

Interestingly, the study found that more than half of women who received abortions at 16 weeks or later were terminating intended pregnancies, which means we can infer that some of those procedures may be due to a threat to the mother's health or an insurmountable birth defect. Women aren't just waltzing into Planned Parenthood at 20 weeks pregnant and aborting their fetuses willy-nilly.

Further, the vast majority of women surveyed said they would have preferred to have had their abortions earlier in their pregnancies. Wait, what? Second trimester abortions aren't sort of like a gentle tickle fight in the uterus?! I feel so misled.

The results of this analysis may seem obvious, but they're important in building a case for more access to contraception and first-trimester abortion providers for young, poor women, as it is a scientific fact that late term abortions are not fun, and they usually involve women who wish it could have turned out differently. Furthermore, the myth of the flippant pregnant woman deciding to have an abortion at 20 weeks just for funsies needs to be debunked once and for all.

Who has second trimester abortions in the United States? [Guttmacher]