About half of all U.S. women who had abortions in 2002 had undergone at least one previous abortion, according to a study released Tuesday.
Women who had repeat abortions tended to be over age 30 and to have more children, and most were using contraception at the time, the report from the nonprofit Alan Guttmacher Institute found.
The Institute used several different surveys by both the government and private groups to come up with its estimate. For instance, in one 2001-2002 government survey, 48 percent of women having abortions said they had undergone a previous abortion.
“This suggests that we need to do a better job helping all women better prevent unwanted pregnancies, so they can avoid having to decide whether to seek abortions or raise children they are not prepared for,” said Rachel Jones, a senior research associate who helped lead the study.
Most of the women seeking abortions were poor or low-income, and 60 percent had at least one child already.
The study also found that one in three U.S. women have given birth to a baby they had not planned for, and one in 10 have had more than one unintended birth.
The Institute, named for the founder of the Planned Parenthood Foundation of America, said women getting abortions should be counseled on how to use contraception effectively, but this opportunity is being missed.
'Wall of separation'
“The 'wall of separation’ that the federal government has erected between family planning and abortion services is, paradoxically, leading to more abortions,” said Sharon Camp, the Institute’s president and chief executive officer.
“These policies interfere with the ability of abortion providers to ensure continuity of care for their patients by guaranteeing that, following an abortion, every woman has an appropriate contraceptive method and is able to use it consistently,” Camp added in a statement.
For example, the Institute said, Colorado, Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania will not give any clinic state family planning funding if it has any relationship with an abortion provider.
And federal Title X-funded family planning programs must maintain a “wall of separation” between their programs and abortion providers.
Half of pregnancies are unintended
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about half of the approximately 5.4 million pregnancies in the United States each year are unintended. More than 4.1 million babies are born in the United States each year.
The CDC has also found that 98 percent of women of reproductive age have used one or more contraceptive methods and 73 percent of women aged 15 to 44 years visited a doctor or clinic for family planning services in 2002.
The CDC said 854,122 legal induced abortions were reported to it in 2002, a number that has been fairly stable after falling steadily from 1996 to 2001.
Globally, 46 million women have abortions each year, with the highest rates in Romania, Cuba and Vietnam and the lowest rates in Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany and Switzerland.