There is an assumption that the women who undergo abortions are teenagers in high school or young childless women working toward a higher degree, or perhaps launching a career. This is an image that was imprinted on American society in the 1970s, when it was largely true. Today, however, that picture is dramatically out of date. According to the most recent numbers from the Guttmacher Institute, 59 percent of women in the United States who end their pregnancies — nearly 6 in 10 — are mothers already.
A 2005 study from Guttmacher Institute researchers found that the decision to terminate a pregnancy very often stems from a mother’s desire to protect her existing family. Mothers know that being a parent is a juggling act that requires significant resources — time, money, energy and emotion. According to the report, the three most common reasons for getting an abortion, given by 75 percent of those studied:
[C]oncern for or responsibility to other individuals; the inability to afford raising a child; and the belief that having a baby would interfere with work, school or the ability to care for dependents. Half said they did not want to be a single parent or were having problems with their husband or partner.
Quite simply, these moms know what they can handle and what they cannot.
Often mothers are already at an economic disadvantage. Almost half of all women who choose to end their pregnancies have incomes under the poverty line, while more than a quarter have incomes within 200 percent of the poverty line ($15,730 for a family of two). For many of these women, 85 percent of whom are single, that reality, combined with insufficient health insurance, makes for an even more difficult struggle. A common denominator for all women who seek abortion services, both those who have children and those who don’t, is that they want the conditions to be right if they decide to bring a child into the world.