We are told that it's poor women. In Fact, the most at-risk group are The wealthiest, and then those at 200-300% of the Federal Poverty levels.
For quite some time we have been told that half or more of those getting abortions were poor women, beneath the Federal Poverty Level. It seems that this is not the case. In the online article, "Sex, Contraception, or Abortion: Explaining Class Gaps in Unintended Childbearing," published by the Center on Children and Families at the Brookings Institution, Richard Reeves and Joanna Venator show that women below the Federal Poverty Level (FPL) who conceive unintentionally tend overall to keep their children. Wealthy women do not, but nor do those who are at 200 to 300% of the FPL. Check out the table below.
While there were more of these poor women, the great majority - 78% - carried their children to term. Sadly, 9% aborted. Not surprisingly, those at 400+ of the FPL, the wealthy, conceived less frequently, but, if they conceived, they aborted much more frequently: they were 32% of pregnant women who got an abortion, and only 52% carried to term. (The difference between those who aborted and those who carried to term - 16% - must reflect miscarriages.)
Who are these women? Here's a chart of the Federal Poverty Guidelines for 2017, which should correspond roughly to the FPL for the original study in 2013. These figures reflect total household income.
It is not poverty, per se, which inclines women to abort, but the complications to life -- work, the rearing of other children -- that another child represents. Likely in many cases, the woman is working. This fits with what many women report when asked about why they are seeking an abortion: they have obligations to others that are made more difficult by the addition of another child. Perhaps the loss of a job seems critical. Oddly, those with less money -- 100 - 200% of the FPL -- carry their children to term 75% of the time. And then those in the bracket above -- 300 - 400% of the FPL -- are more able as a group to handle the challenges, and so 86% carry to term. There's something about this group in the middle, among whom less than half carry to term.
What does this tell us? For one thing, generally speaking, it is not poverty that leads women to abort. The group that resorts to abortion is not poor. So any sentimentality about grinding poverty is off-base, and any attempt to "solve" the problem of abortion by throwing money at it is not going to help.
We don't know how many from this group are coming to pregnancy help centers. If they are, then staff at these centers have their work cut out for them. The commonest problem may be one of morale. Those in this group will not starve if another child is born, but they may have to make sacrifices that they find overwhelming. Their work and family arrangements may have to change in ways that they find drastic. (We know that about 60% of abortion patients have one child or more already.) They may feel that they will be falling behind financially with another child. Issues of morale are best addressed by the truths of faith: staff at the centers can remind these women that God cares for them, for their families, for their situations. It is true, and it may be crucial.
"Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God. Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows" (Luke 12:6-7).
God knows our future, and He has it in His hands. Our material situation may change, but the gift of another child, understood properly, is so much more significant to our lives than any material or social challenge we may face.
Chris Humphrey has been involved in pro-life activity of one kind or another since the late 1970s, when he first looked at the subject of abortion in seminary in Canada. He has an undergraduate degree in English (University of Toronto), and M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in religious studies (McGill). He has had a varied career as a pastor, chaplain in a psychiatric hospital, editor of academic and instructional publications, semi-professional photographer, and home renovator. He is a husband of over 45 years to Edith (a Professor of New Testament), father to three girls, and grandfather to seventeen grandchildren. He lives and works in the Stanton Heights neighborhood of Pittsburgh.