Class Distinctions Emerge in Unplanned Pregnancies, Contraceptive Access

In the past eight years, unplanned pregnancies, births and abortions have risen among the nation’s poorest women, while these rates have fallen for more affluent women. This data comes from a report by the Guttmacher Institute, which analyzed information from the National Center for Health Statistics and other federal sources from 1994 to 2001, and found that women living below the poverty line were four times more likely to experience unintentional pregnancy.

Asked to speculate on the cause of the differences, researchers pointed to the cuts in state and federal family planning programs, combined with an emphasis on abstinence, which resulted in decreased contraceptive options for women who depend on these services. Wealthier women maintained significantly higher levels of contraceptive use. As contraceptive use has declined, the abortion rate has also continued to decline, but at a slower rate. “Effective contraceptives backed up by safe and legal abortion have allowed American women to become equal partners with men in modern society and must remain an integral part of health care for all womenÉ This is turning back the clock on all the gains women have made in recent decades,” said Sharon L. Camp, president of the Guttmacher Institute.

Furthermore, women’s experiences after becoming unintentionally pregnant were also marked by economic, racial and educational disparities. The Washington Post reports that 50 percent more poor women gave birth to babies in 2001 than in 1994, while the birth rate decreased in affluent women, and poor women who aborted did so an average of six days later than their affluent counterparts.


ÒAbortion in WomenÕs Lives,Ó Guttmacher Institute; Guttmacher Institute release 5/4/05; New York Times 5/5/06; Washington Post 5/4/06

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