Abortion rates have risen among poor women, report finds

(Image: ctrouper/flickr)

According to a report released by the Guttmacher Institute yesterday, abortion rates in the U.S. have dropped in the past decade among almost every subgroup of women – except for the impoverished. From the years 2000 to 2008, low-income women accounted for 42.4 percent of abortions. The report attributes this exception to poverty and the country’s recent economic recession.

While abortion rates in the U.S. have dropped 8 percent for most groups, poor women saw a 17.5 percent increase.

According to authors of the report,

“…The ongoing economic recession may have made it harder for poor women to obtain contraceptive services, resulting in more unintended pregnancies. In addition, when confronted with an unintended pregnancy, women who might have felt equipped to support a child or another child in a more stable economic climate may have decided that they were unable to do so during a time of economic uncertainty.”

In Florida, the state legislature has recently created even more barriers for low-income women seeking reproductive health services.

Florida’s legislature passed five abortion-rights restricting bills, which are currently awaiting the governor’s signature. One bill removes the funding of abortions in health exchanges created by the federal health care reform bill, and does not provide protection for those facing a “serious health risk.” Other bills seek to make it significantly more difficult for a minor to obtain a judicial bypass to the parental notice of abortion law and require doctors to perform an ultrasound before providing an abortion.

The Guttmacher report notes that “restrictions on abortion disproportionately affect [poor women].”

This year, the Florida legislature cut almost a million dollars in local government aid grants for family planning. Over the past two years, cuts in family planning totaled up to more than a million dollars. The legislature also added a provision to the Medicaid reform bill that would allow any Medicaid provider to opt-out of family planning on moral or religious grounds. Some call this provision an “unprecedented” policy move.

The study’s author, Rachel K. Jones, says that the concentration of abortions among poor women is indicative of the need for “better contraceptive access and family planning counseling.”

“Antiabortion restrictions and cuts to publicly funded family planning services disproportionately affect poor women,” she said, “making it even more difficult for them to gain access to the contraceptive and abortion services they need.”

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