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Low-Income Women Don’t Have Enough Time to Save Money for Abortions

Low-Income Women Don’t Have Enough Time to Save Money for Abortions

By Tara Culp-Ressler

More than 4,000 U.S. women were denied abortions in 2008 because they had surpassed the gestational age limit for the legal procedure, according to new research published in the American Journal of Public Health. Those women — who ultimately carried unwanted pregnancies to term — were forced to delay their abortions because they needed to save up money, either to pay for the procedure itself or to fund their travel to a clinic.

As part of the University of California, San Francisco’s ongoing “Turnaway Study,” which examines the implications of denying women access to abortion, researchers studied the women seeking abortion care from “last stop” providers, defined as the clinics offering the latest abortion services within 150 miles. When women were turned away from those clinics for being past the deadline, researchers asked them about the barriers that prevented them from being able to get an abortion earlier in their pregnancy. Unsurprisingly, economic barriers topped the list.

Nearly six in 10 women said they couldn’t get an abortion earlier because of travel and procedure costs. Many women also pointed to insurance problems (the majority of states’ Medicaid programs won’t cover abortion services for low-income women, and even women who do have insurance coverage for abortion often either don’t know how it works or skip it because they want the anonymity of paying in cash). Some didn’t know where they should go to receive reproductive care, or how to get to the nearest clinic. About half of the participants said that they delayed seeking abortion services because they didn’t immediately recognize that they were pregnant.

It makes sense, then, that women who need later abortions tend to be economically disadvantaged. But it’s a cycle. The study’s researchers point out that the later women get into their pregnancies, the harder it becomes for them to access abortion care.

“Unfortunately, barriers to abortion only worsen as a pregnancy progresses,” one of the study’s co-authors, Rachel Jones of the Guttmacher Institute, explained. “There are fewer abortion providers that offer care in the second trimester and the procedure becomes much more expensive. By the time a woman has raised the funds for an abortion, a provider may turn her away because she is past the gestational limit set by the provider. For women denied abortion care, traveling to another provider simply may not be feasible.”

Researchers warn that the reproductive rights landscape may actually be even more dire than their study suggests. Their data was collected between 2008 and 2010 — but since then, 11 different states have imposed gestational limits on abortion, which suggests that the number of women currently getting turned away from clinics is now much higher. Currently, the political fight over the issue hinges on 20-week abortion bans, a strategy that allows the anti-choice community to position itself as moderate while chipping away at disadvantaged women’s reproductive rights. The House of Representatives even passed a national 20-week ban at the beginning of the summer.

There’s yet another economic cycle at play in this situation. When women are denied the access to legal abortion care, they are more likely to fall deeper into poverty.

All women should have equal reproductive rights, regardless of income or social class. Sign this petition to repeal the horrific CalWORKs MFG law that would only worsen childhood poverty in the state.

This post was originally published in ThinkProgress.

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Photo Credit: Thinkstock

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6:04AM PDT on Sep 6, 2013

Birth control is pretty cheap. Cheaper than getting abortions. If these aborted children were alive today a lot of them would be tax paying adults right now and maybe we would not have quite as much debt in this country.

2:50PM PDT on Aug 23, 2013

And the Republican war on women continues....

12:52AM PDT on Aug 21, 2013

We don't have this problem in the UK because you can get an abortion on the NHS, but this must be a terrifying situation in places where you have to pay and can't afford it.

8:31PM PDT on Aug 20, 2013

Both parties should use contraception to prevent this.

6:44PM PDT on Aug 20, 2013

Murray C. “BIRTH CONTROL...lots of different modes.....”

Check out

Help is required beyond shouting “BIRTH CONTROL”.

6:42PM PDT on Aug 20, 2013

Karen H. Good post, with many salient questions. If you look back through the other comments you will find posts that will cover your questions; such as “what about the MAN who donates the sperm?”

To understand the issues with “buying (and using) birth control” have a look at to see how it isn’t that simple.

“In any case, it should be the responsibility of BOTH parties, not just the woman.” Often the seeking an abortion is both parties being involved. It’s just how poor some families have become in the US that is the issue.

“In the case of rape, the rapist should be made to pay” Although rape conviction rates are improving, they are a long way from this being practical in most cases. Again too, rape is associated with poverty. There isn’t any way to access any money; then too, we shouldn’t force women who have already endured the rape to have to endure contact, even if only through regular cheques with the perpetrator; I suspect many abortions are the result of unreported rape, the woman just getting the experience behind her.

2:25PM PDT on Aug 20, 2013

Oops - that should be ...
In the case of rape, the rapist should be made to pay for medical treatment for the victim as well as abortion OR pre-natal care and child support to age 18. It’s only fair.

2:23PM PDT on Aug 20, 2013

I figure this will be split in two, so I’ll do it myself. This is part 1.
Got a question – what about the MAN who donates the sperm? He’s just as responsible—if not more so if he’s guilty of rape or incest. We have to live with the consequences of our actions. That can be buying (and using) birth control, raising a child to age 18, or paying for an abortion. In any case, it should be the responsibility of BOTH parties, not just the woman.
In the case of rape, the rapist should be made to pay for medical treatment for the victim as well as abortion, pre-natal care and child support to age 18. It’s only fair.
For those who don’t know – a woman can have her period until she gives birth. If you have no other symptoms, how do you know? I knew a woman who thought she was gaining a little weight but had no other symptoms until she went into labor.

2:23PM PDT on Aug 20, 2013

This is part 2.
The GOP moans about welfare, yet doesn’t want to help prevent unwanted or unplanned pregnancies by providing sex education, contraception and/or abortion. Poor women need help. Give it! Like Karen M, the GOP believes “if you can't afford a baby, why in the world would you even put yourself in a situation where you might have sex?”After all, only the rich and privileged can afford to have sex. The GOP doesn’t want to provide contraception (although the rich can afford it), don’t want to provide abortions, and don’t want welfare babies.
BTW, Mike K, “JMO means Just My Opinion”.

8:04AM PDT on Aug 20, 2013

BIRTH CONTROL...lots of different modes.....

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