Policy Considerations in the Public Funding of Abortion
Jacqueline R. Kasun, PhD et al.

Association for Interdisciplinary Research in Values and Social Change
Vol. 4, No. 2, Summer 1991
Reproduced with Permission

Cutoff of Abortion Funds Doesn't Deliver Welfare Babies
by Jacqueline R. Kasun, PhD

(Reprinted with permission of The Wall Street Journal, 1986 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All rights reserved)

The abortion-funding debate is once more in the news, with referendums designed to end state funding of abortions defeated in Massachusetts, Oregon and. Arkansas. But as debaters well know, plausibility and truth are not synonymous.

Proponents of public funding may have aided themselves in carrying the day with the argument that abortion prevents the birth of children who would become dependent on public assistance, and they offer estimates of the alleged savings thus achieved. Unfortunately, public funding's champions do not present the whole picture. With funding cut off, abortions decrease, but births decrease as well:

Outcome of 3-month pregnancies, Feb.-July 1977 1978
No. induced abortions 3,958 2,591
No. live births (Aug. -Jan.) 6,156 5,935
Est. no. of miscarriages 543 523
Total pregnancies 10,657 9,046
Outcome of 3-month pregnancys, feb.-July 1977 1978
No. induced abortions 4,474 1,164
No. live births (Aug. -Jan.) 6,854 6,829
Est. no. of miscarriages 604 602
Total pregnancies 8,932 8,595

The figures above are gleaned from a careful study, published in the May/June 1980 issue of the Guttmacher Institute's Family Planning Perspectives1, of what happened in three states after the passage of the Hyde Amendment, which eliminated most federal funding of abortion. One of the states, Michigan, continued to pay with state funds for poor women's abortions. The other two, Ohio and Georgia, did not. Birth and abortion records of Medicaid-eligible women for all three states were studied and compared for a six-month period of 1977 (before Hyde) and a comparable period of 1978 (after Hyde).

Women increasingly receive publish assistance as abortion is repeated. Women with lowest income or education are least likely to seek abortion.

Indeed, there was a reduction in abortions in Ohio and Georgia, apparently resulting from the cutoff of public funds. So what is to account for the decrease in births? Conceptions decreased. The decrease amounted to 4% in Georgia and a hefty 15% in Ohio. Remember that these figures come from a careful counting of birth and abortion records kept for Medicaid-eligible women in both states.

The evidence would seem to be conclusive, but it is ignored or selectively cited. As a case in point, this year Oregon's secretary of state insisted that the anti-funding ballot also contain the message that the measure would cost the state $2.4 million a year, because each abortion not paid for by the state would be replaced by the live birth of a welfare-dependent child.

Abortions declined without public funding, but births did not increase.

Prior to making this estimate, the secretary of state had received a memorandum from Planned Parenthood estimating that only 20% of the abortions not funded by the state would end up as live births and that the other 80% would be paid for by the women themselves. That number, too, was erroneous, but not as wide of the mark as the secretary of state's.

The Planned Parenthood estimate, while based on the study cited above, used only part of the study's data. As would be expected, there was little change between the six-month periods in 1977 and 1978 in the number of abortions performed on poor women in Michigan, where state support replaced federal funding. In Georgia and Ohio, where government funding ceased, the number of abortions performed on Medicaid-eligible women declined by 21% and 35%, respectively. On the basis of these figures, together with the number of live births, the authors of the study estimated that, if the same proportion of pregnancies had been aborted in 1978 as in 1977, there would have been about 20% more abortions in both states. The next small step might seem to be obvious - that is, to conclude that the unfunded 20% of abortions must have resulted in live births. Following this reasoning, a Guttmacher Institute study of the "Public Benefits and Costs of Government Funding for Abortion," published in the May/June 1986 issue of Family Planning Perspectives2, did use this apparently reasonable assumption as the basis of its cost estimates, concluding that "for every tax dollar spent to pay for abortions for poor women, about four dollars is saved in public medical and welfare expenditures."

Planned Parenthood and its former affiliate, the Guttmacher Institute (both strong advocates of public funding), are correct: Fewer abortions occur when public funding for abortions is cut off. But what the statements by these agencies omit is the most interesting and significant effect: Though abortions decline, births do not increase, and therefore public assistance cannot increase, because people take steps to reduce conceptions.

This fact, though contrary to certain stereotypes of human response enshrined by the social-welfare establishment, is in perfect harmony with elementary principles of economic behavior. Faced with a price for a formerly "free good" such as an abortion, consumers turn to a less costly substitute - in this case apparently to the prevention of pregnancy. This substitution effect, familiar to economists, has shown up in other studies of abortion. In Denmark, after abortion became more liberally available, sales of contraceptives declined sharply as rates of abortion and pregnancy rose, while the birth rate rose briefly and then resumed its long-run decline.

In her studies of American women, Kristin Luker found that the knowledge that "I can always get an abortion" played an important role in the decision to risk getting pregnant. In Minnesota a law requiring parents to be notified of minors' abortions (another way of imposing a higher "price" for the service) was followed by dramatic reductions in pregnancies, abortions and births among teenagers.3

The evidence blows apart the economic arguments for public-funding of abortion. Government-funded abortion provides no "cost savings" to the public. Rather, the evidence shows that people respond to its availability at public expense by using it in place of other means of birth control and that they adapt to its non-availability at public expense by using other means of limiting births.

Dr. Kasun is a professor of economics at Humboldt State University in Arcata, Calif. She has authored a book "The War AgainstPopulationî as well as numerous other publications. This article initially appeared in The Wall Street Journal, December 30, 1986.

1. The Impact of Restricting Medicaid Financing forAbortion, J.T. Trussell, Family Planning Perspectives 12:20, May/June, 1980 [Back]

2. Public Benefits and Costs of Government Funding of Abortion, A. Torres et al, Family Planning Perspective 18:111, May/June 1986 [Back]

3. Impact of the Minnesota Parental Notification Law on Abortion and Birth, J.L. Rogers, R. Boruch, G. Stoms and D. DeMoya, Am. J. Public Health 81(3):294, Mar. 1991 [Back]

Women Increasingly Receive Public Assistance as Abortion is Repeated
Thomas W. Strahan, Editor

Since the legalization of abortion in 1973 in the United States, various organizations have made the claim that considerable tax savings of many millions of dollars, due to lower welfare costs, would be realized if abortions were utilized by low income women instead of childbirth. For example, at the end of 1973 the Department of Health, Education and Welfare (HEW) reported to Congress that it had funded "at least" 220,000 abortions. The National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL) calculated that delivery of a child "plus welfare 1 year," cost $4600.00 and that the savings in the first year on this basis was claimed to be over $1 billion.1

Similar claims are currently being made today by pro-abortion advocates, using current cost figures. However, there is considerable evidence that this claim is illusory, because of the failure to consider the adverse effect of abortion on women. One reason for the failure to realize these "savings" is the fact that many women who use abortion as a method of birth control, are already more likely to be eligible for or are receiving public assistance compared to women in general. In addition, as women repeat abortion they are increasingly likely to begin to receive public assistance.

The utilization of repeat abortion is a problem of considerable significance. At the present time nearly one-half of the abortions in the United States are repeat abortions. If a woman has had one abortion she is at least 4 times more likely to have a repeat abortion compared to a woman who is aborting for the first time.2 The considerable number of women who repeat abortions paid for by public funds has affected attitudes toward public funding of abortions. For example, former president Jimmy Carter stated, "It is very disturbing that many of the recipients of federal payments for abortion in the past have been repeaters. They come back time after time for additional abortions, which show it is not entirely ignorance."3

The socio-economic status of women tends to deteriorate as abortion is repeated.

Researchers have found that the socio-economic status of women tends to deteriorate as abortion is repeated. In one study at the Yale Medical School, researchers reviewed the records of the abortion clinic at Yale-New Haven Hospital of 886 women having a first or repeat abortion at the clinic during 1974-75. It was determined that women having first abortions were similar in age (22.7 vs 24.0), and years of completed education (11.8 years vs 12.1 years) to those having repeat abortions. Women in the repeat abortion group were significantly more likely to be divorced, (11.9% vs 6.1%), less likely to be a student (15.7% vs 27.7%) and more likely to be on welfare (38.2% vs 25.8%).

Women repeating abortion were more likely to be on welfare than women aborting for the first time.

Within each racial group, women having repeat abortions were more likely to have had more living children (60.5% vs 43.3%) compared to women having a first abortion. Among black women, 55.6% of the first abortion group were on welfare versus 65.6% of those having repeat abortions. The respective figures for white women on welfare were 12.3% (first abortion) and 19.3% (repeat abortion).

Among those repeating abortion an average of approximately 2 years had elapsed since the previous abortion, but 42% had repeated abortions within the last 12 months. Women on welfare were found to be particularly likely to engage in unprotected sexual intercourse and appeared to remain exposed to repeat abortion.4

If unprotected sexual intercourse and 'unwanted' pregnancy by women on welfare is considered undesirable, undergoing an induced abortion only heightens the problem. A number of studies have shown that despite contraceptive knowledge women will repeat abortion due to depression over prior personal losses, sexual identity conflicts, increased frequency of sexual activity, masochism, replacement pregnancies following abortion, compulsive re-enactment and other reasons. A New York study found that women repeating abortion generally showed more desire to have children than women having an abortion for the first time.5

A Finnish study compared women who were able to successfully contracept following one abortion with women repeating abortion and found that women repeating abortion were lower in self-esteem, more impulsive, had less emotional balance, were less realistic, more unstable and had less capacity for integrated personal relationships. Women repeating abortion were less likely to have a relationship of 5 years or longer with their current male partner. Partners of repeaters took less responsibility for contraception even though the women had left them with greater responsibility in this respect. Solidarity with the partner was weaker in those repeating abortion even though the women felt greater admiration for their partners. Those who were repeating abortion tended to indicate a 'split' mechanism and immaturity of ego development which verged on a borderline level disturbance.6

Women repeating abortion had poorer competence in building up the socio-economic framework of thier lives.

The same Finnish study found no statistically significant differences between women aborting for the first time and women repeating abortion as to amount of education, level of vocational training or the womenís satisfaction with their own education. There was no significant difference between the women in the two groups in terms of net income. However, in the case of men living with the women in a common household, net income was higher in the single abortion group. The level of housing conditions was poorer in the repeat abortion group and they were more commonly dissatisfied with their living environment in general. The authors concluded that women repeating abortion had poorer competence in building up the socio-economic framework of their lives.

Women who repeat abortions tend to have increasing health problems and evidence a trend toward personality disintegration as abortion is increasingly repeated, which appears to increase the likelihood of a need for public assistance. In a study of women patients entering Boston Hospital for Women during 1976-78, 16.9% of the women with no prior abortions were welfare recipients compared with 26% for women with one prior abortion and 27% for women with 2 or more prior abortions. The women with a history of abortion tended to be somewhat younger, were more likely to be non-white and had increasingly higher reported smoking levels as the number of prior abortions increased.7

Women have increasing health problems and evidence a trend toward personality disintegration as abortion is repeated.

The increasing smoking rates among women as abortion is repeated is important. Studies have shown that smokers are less likely than non-smokers to use contraceptives or plan a pregnancy.8 Smokers are more likely to drink beer or whiskey to excess.9 In a study of college students at the University of Arizona in 1973, it was found that smokers had a higher level of anxiety, manifested more psychosomatic symptoms, had more guilt proneness, more unrealistic fantasy content, had less self-control over internal processes and more nervous tension than non-smokers.10 Women in a state of bereavement following a loss will tend to increase smoking11 and women who smoke during pregnancy will tend to have increased rates of child abuse compared with women who do not smoke during that time.12 Women tend to smoke to relieve stress or emotional upsets. Female heavy smokers have been found to be more depressed or neurotic than non-smokers.13

Various studies have demonstrated that induced abortion tends to increase stress and emotional difficulties in women. MMPI tests have shown greater impulsivity, anxiety and depression in women following induced abortion compared to women who deliver.14 Women show an increasing incidence of hospitalization for psychiatric problems as abortion is repeated although not for childbirth.15 Women repeating abortion have been shown to have higher emotional distress levels in areas of depression, anxiety, paranoia and sleep disturbance compared to women who have had only one abortion, and also tend to be more isolated.16 Women who have had a prior abortion also tend to smoke and consume alcohol more frequently and more heavily during subsequent pregnancies intended to be carried to term compared with other pregnancy outcomes,17 and they have been shown to smoke more frequently when compared to women who carried unwanted pregnancies to term.18 Women who use drugs such as cocaine, heroin or methamphetamine during pregnancy have been found to have higher incidence of prior abortions, and particularly repeat abortions, compared to women who do not use these drugs during pregnancy.19 As abortion is repeated it appears to lead to a lessened degree of functioning due to personality deterioration as well as increased health and social problems with an increasing need for public assistance.20 Illusory claims of cost savings, if abortions are paid by tax monies, vanish when subjected to the scrutiny of the immense health and social problems as abortion is repeated.

Nearly 3 times the number of women undergoing abortion were eligible for Medicaid assistance compared to U.S. women in general.

A comprehensive study conducted in 1987 by the Alan Guttmacher Institute interviewed 9,480 U.S. women obtaining abortions at 103 clinics, hospitals and doctorsí offices. The study found that nearly 3 times the number of women undergoing abortion were eligible for public assistance (Medicaid) compared to U.S. women in general (23.8% vs 9%)21 When the data was adjusted for age differences the relative difference was still 2.44. Many of the Medicaid eligible women undergoing abortion already had prior pregnancies which were carried to term. Nearly one-half of the women undergoing abortion (47.6%) had one or more previous live births. Among these women abortion would not be likely to keep women off of public assistance, as many were already eligible for public assistance, and many also had live born children. In addition, 70% of the women undergoing abortion still wanted more children in the future.

Many of the women in the Alan Guttmacher study were repeating abortion. According to the self-reports of the women, 26.9% were having a second abortion; 10.7% were having their third abortion; and 5.3% were having their fourth abortion or more. The self-reported figure of repeat abortions is probably lower than the actual incidence. A study of repeat abortion comparing medical records with self-report interviews found a 20% higher incidence of repeat abortions in medical records.22

70% of the women undergoing abortion still wanted more children in the future.

Significantly more of the women undergoing abortion were never married (63.3% vs 35.7%), cohabiting (17.4% vs 3.5%), separated (6.4% vs 3.3%) or divorced (11.2% vs 8.2%) than women in general, indicating a lesser degree of attachment and presumably less economic support from males. Separated women were 5 times more likely, and unmarried co-habiting women were 9 times more likely to have an abortion, compared to married women living with their spouse. The study reported that married women generally have higher family incomes compared with women in other situations. This appears to be significant as a considerably greater number of women undergoing abortion are not married than women in general.

Other studies have shown a weakening of social bonds as abortion is increasingly utilized. A study of 345 women at a New York abortion clinic found that women who have repeat abortions are in less stable social situations and had relationships of shorter duration than women who seek abortions for the first time.23 A Los Angeles study also found that women repeating abortion were significantly more likely to be single or living without a spouse, and to have less stable relationships with their partners, compared to women seeking abortion for the first time.24

Women having abortions had a lesser degress of attachment and likely less economic support from males.

Anecdotal reports of women who repeat abortion are also helpful in understanding the dynamics involved. In a particularly poignant story of a woman with a long history of personal problems, increasing deterioration of social relationships took place as abortion was repeated. At the time of her first abortion she was living with her parents, who coerced her into the abortion. She also had a steady boyfriend to whom she was committed, eventually married and who briefly provided economic support. At the time of her second abortion she was involved in a live-in situation with a man who promised to marry her, but who had heavy financial obligations arising out of his first marriage. At the time of her third abortion she shared an apartment with a man who drank heavily but with whom she had no particular commitment and who threw her down the stairs when he learned she was pregnant. Her moral and social situation deteriorated as abortion was repeated. Her relationships with men continued to worsen with each succeeding abortion with more and more personal as well as financial problems.25

The repeated utilization of abortion appears to lead not to economic prosperity or social well being, but to an increasing ‘feminization’ of poverty.

In another instance a woman with a history of 4 abortions reported that her first abortion was obtained at the urging of her doctor because of fear of possible birth defects. Alcohol and drug abuse followed. The second was done in anger at her lover. Promiscuity followed. She laughed about her third abortion. The fourth was a "quickie" and by now she was "deadened to pain - to right and wrong." Her relationships with men deteriorated from marriage (1st abortion) to an ongoing sexual relationship with a married man (2nd abortion) to sexual promiscuity with no particular commitment (3rd and 4th abortion).26 Thus, it is particularly likely that women repeating abortion in the Alan Guttmacher study would have a lesser degree of economic support from male partners as well as a weaker socio-economic structure in general.


Medicaid payment of elective abortion, as a form of birth control, is not likely to result in savings of tax money, particularly in the case of repeat abortion. At the present time nearly one-half of the abortions in the United States are repeat abortions. Women who repeat abortion are more likely to be receiving public assistance than women who undergo only one abortion. Women who repeat abortion either do not use contraceptives or are erratic in their use of contraceptives. They are likely to already have live born children and want more children in the future.

As women repeat abortion there is evidence of personal, social and health deterioration which increases the likelihood that public assistance will be needed. The degree of attachment to males is lessened as abortion is repeated which tends to decrease socio-economic stability. Thus, the repeated utilization of abortion appears to lead not to economic prosperity or social well-being, but to an increasing 'feminization of poverty.'


1A Private Choice, John T. Noonan, Jr. (1979) quoting the Congressional Record 120 (November 20, 1974) at 36695 [Back]

2Repeat Abortions - Why More?, C. Tietze, Family Planning Perspectives 10(5):286, Sept/Oct 1978; The Social and Economic Correlates of Pregnancy Resolution among Adolescents in New York City by Race and Ethnicity: A Multivariate Analysis, T. Joyce, Am J. Public Health 78(6):626, June, 1988 [Back]


3Repeat Abortion: Blaming the Victims, B. Howe, R. Kaplin and C. English, Am. J. Public Health 69(12):1242-1245, Dec., 1979, quoting Planned Parenthood - World Population Memo, Aug. 3,1977:6 [Back]

4Contraceptive Practice and Repeat Induced Abortion: An Epidemiological Investigation, M. Shepard and M. Bracken, J. Biosocial Science 11:289-302 (1979) [Back]

5Special Issue on Repeat Abortion, Association for Interdisciplinary Research Newsletter 2(3):1-8, Summer, 1989 citing various studies [Back]

6The First Abortion-And the Last? A Study of the Personality Factors Underlying Repeated Failure of Contraception, P. Niemela, P. Lehtinen, L. Rauramo, R. Hermansson and R. Karjalainen, Int. J. Gynaecol. Obstet. 19:193-200 (1981) [Back]

7Association of Induced Abortion With Subsequent Pregnancy Loss, A. Levin, S. Schoenbaum, R. Monson, P. Stubblefield and K. Ryan JAMA 243(24):2495, June 27,1980 [Back]

8The Relationship of Parents' Cigarette Smoking to the Outcome of Pregnancy, J. Yerushalmy, American Journal of Epidemiology 93(6):443 (1971) [Back]

9Gestation, Birth Weight and Spontaneous Abortion in Pregnant Women After Induced Abortion, Report of Collaborative Study by World Health Organization Task Force on Sequelae of Abortion, The Lancet p. 142-145, January 20, 1979 [Back]

10Personality Variables Associated With Cigarette Smoking, Richard W. Coan, J., of Personality and Social Psychology 26(1):86-104, 1973 [Back]

11Health After Bereavement: A Controlled Study, C.M. Parkes and R. Brown, Psychosom. Medicine 34:449-461 (1972) [Back]

12Smoking During Pregnancy and Child Maltreatment, J. Cheesare, J. Pascoe and E. Baugh, Int. J. for Biosocial Research 8:(1):37-42 (1986) [Back]

13Personality Implications of Cigarette Smoking Among College Students, D. Schubert, J. Consult. Psychology 23:276(1959); Smoking and Neuroticism, Walters, Br. J. Preventative and Social Medicine 25:162 (1971) [Back]

14Psychological Reaction To Therapeutic Abortion, K. Niswander, J. Singer and M. Singer, Am. J. Obstetrics and Gynecology 114:29-33, Sept. 1, 1972 [Back]

15Risk of Admission to Psychiatric Institutions Among Danish Women Who Experience Induced Abortion: An Analysis Based Upon Record Linkage, Ronald Somers, PhD Thesis, UCLA (1979) (Dissertation Abstracts Int'l Order No. 7926066) [Back]

16Emotional Distress PatternsAmong Women Having First or Repeat Abortions, E. Freeman, Obstet. Gynecol. 55(5):630, May 1980; Repeat Abortions: Is it a Problem?, C. Berger, D. Gold, D. Andres, P. Gullett and R. Kinch, Family Planning Perspectives 16(2):70-75, March/April 1984 [Back]

17Outcome of First Delivery After 2nd Trimester Two-State Induced Abortion: A Controlled Historical Cohort Study, O. Meirik and K.G. Nygren, Acta Obstetricia et Gynecologica Scand. 63(1):45-50 (1984); Women, Drinking and Pregnancy, Moria Plant, London: Tavistock Publications (1985) [Back]

18A Prospective Study of Smoking and Pregnancy, S. Kullander and B. Kallen, Acta Obstet. Gynec. Scand 50:83-94 (1971) [Back]

19Cocaine Use During Pregnancy: Prevalence and Correlates, D.A. Frank, B. Zuckerman, H. Amoro, Pediatrics 82(6):888-895, Dec. 1988; Perinatal Cocaine and Methamphetamine Exposure - Material and Neo-Natal Correlates, A. S. Oro and S.D. Dixon, J. Pediatrics 111:571-578 (1987) [Back]

20. Smoking-Atributable Mortality and Years of Potential Life Lost - United States 1984, IAMA 258(19):2648, November 20,1987; Smoking: Health Effects and Control, Jonathan E. Fielding, The New England Journal of Medicine 313(8):491-497, Aug. 22, 1985; Every Child A Learner. Reducing Risks of Learning Impairment During Pregnancy and Infancy, Lucille Newman and Stephen L. Buka, Education Commission of the States: Denver, Colorado (1990) [Back]

21The Characteristics and Prior Contraceptive Use of U.S. Abortion Patients, S. Henshaw and J. Silverman, Family Planning Perspectives 20(4):158-168, July/Aug. 1988 [Back]

22Women Who Obtain Repeat Abortions: A Study Based on Record Linkage, P. Steinhoff, R. Smith, J. Palmore, M. Diamond and C.S. Chung, Family Planning Perspectives 11(1):30, Jan/Feb. 1979 [Back]

23First and Repeat Abortions: A Study of Decision-Making and Delay, M. Bracken and S. Kasl, J. Biosocial Sci. 7:473-491 (1975) [Back]

24Incidence of Repeated Abortion, Second Trimester Abortion, Contraceptive Use, and Illness Within a Teenage Population, Rena Bobrowsky, PhD Thesis, USC (1987), copies available from Micrographics Dept. Doheny Library, USC, Los Angeles, CA 90069-0182 [Back]

25Beyond Choice: The Abortion Story No One is Telling, Don Baker, Portland: Multanomah Press (1985) [Back]

26Aborted Women: Silent No More, David Reardon, Chicago: Loyola Press (1987) (Testimony of Deborah H.) [Back]

Abortion Rate is Lowest Among Targeted Population

Abortion advocates frequently argue that abortion is needed to permit uneducated women to complete their education and presumably make more money. However, women with little formal education are most likely to reject abortion. In 1986 the National Center for Health Statistics in a survey of approximately 300,000 women aged 18-24 from 13 states found that women completing 8 years of education or less had only one fifth the frequency of abortion compared to women with 4 years of college or more.1

1986 Survey
Educational Level Attained Abortions Per 1000 Live Births
Whites Blacks
0-8 years 138 237
9-11 220 376
12 396 708
13-15 615 895
16 or more 811 1251

A 1984 New York survey of 31,207 teenagers also found that the likelihood of obtaining an abortion increased with the number of years of school completed for Puerto Ricans, Latinos, Whites and Blacks.2

A random survey in 1981 across the United States found that the level of formal education influences attitudes toward abortion. When people were asked: "Do you believe abortion is morally wrong or is it not a moral issue?", 74% of those with an 11th grade education or less thought it morally wrong, compared to 67% for high school graduates and 54% for those with some college or more.3 Thus, the claim that abortion is needed for uneducated women to advance is unsupported. Also, if abortion rates rise with level of education one must question the kind of education being obtained, if it has the effect of promoting abortion.

1Individual Terminations of Pregnancy: Reporting States 1985-1986, National Center for Health Statistics, Kenneth Kochanek, Monthly Vital Statistics Report 37(12), Supplement, April 28, 1989 [Back]

2The Social and Economic Correlates of Pregnancy Resolution Among Adolescents in New York City by Race and Ethnicity: A Multivariate Analysis, T. Joyce, Am. J. Public Health 78(6):626, June, 1988 [Back]

3The Connecticut Mutual Life Report on American Values in the 80's: The Impact of Belief, Conn. Mutual Life Ins. Co.: Hartford, Conn. (1981) [Back]

Studies Show Low Income Women are Less Likely to Seek Abortion

A study among women aged 15-44 in 352 health areas in New York City during 1970-71 found that the abortion rate significantly decreased as per capita income decreased in a given health area.1 It appeared that attitude toward abortion was a significant factor. When unmarried New York City black women with untimely pregnancies were asked the main reasons why they did not have or consider having an abortion, many stated they "thought it was immoral to have an abortion"2

New York City Abortion Rate
Black Women White Women
All health areas 1.80 0.89
Per Capita Income
< $1500 1.48 -
$1500 - $2499 1.67 -
$2500 - $3499 1.98 0.60
$3500 - $4499 2.59 0.63
$4500 - $5499 - 0.66
$5500 - $6499 - 0.83
≥$7000 - 1.22

A later study of 31,207 New York City teenagers during 1984 found that "the percentage of persons below the poverty level was inversely related to the likelihood of abortion in the case of Whites and Puerto Ricans." The same study found no correlation between poverty level and likelihood of abortion among Latinos and Blacks. The study concluded "regardless of how accessible abortion services are, teenagers in poverty will be less likely to seek abortion than their more educated and financially better off counterparts."3

The belief that abortion is immoral is more prevelant among low income people generally. In a random study of U.S. citizens in 1981 the question was asked: "Do you believe abortion is morally wrong or is it not a moral issue?" 65% of the general public agreed it was morally wrong; 74% agreed if their annual income was under $12,000; 64% agreed if their annual income ranged from $12,000 - $25,000, and only 56% agreed if their annual income was above $25,000.4 A 1989 Los Angeles Times random telephone survey found that people earning less than $20,000 annually were more likely to think abortion is murder (70% vs 46%) and less likely to favor using public funds for abortion (32% vs 46%) compared with those earning more than $20,000 annually.0005

1Legal Abortion Among New York City Residents: An Analysis According to Socio-economic and Demographic Characteristics, Marcia J. Kramer, Family Planning Perspectives 7(3):128, May/June, 1975 [Back]

2Public Assistance and Early Family Formation: Is there a Pronatalist Effect.7, H.B. Presser and L.S. Salsberg, Social Problems 23:226-241 (1975) [Back]

3The Social and Economic Correlates of Pregnancy Resolution Among Adolescents, T. Joyce, Am. J. Public Health 78(6):626, June, 1988 [Back]

4. The Connecticut Mutual Life Report (1981) [Back]

5. Los Angeles Times Poll, March 3-10, 1989 [Back]