What Pro-Lifers Know About the Women Getting Abortions in America — and How to Reach Them
Pro-life advocates discuss and dispute the findings of one national story about abortion statistics.
WASHINGTON — Who are the women getting abortions in the United States these days? That’s the question The New York Times attempted to answer last month in an article — but pro-life experts say it paints an incomplete picture.
Researchers with the pro-life Charlotte Lozier Institute pushed back on the Times’ portrayal of abortion as a normal part of a woman’s reproductive life, discussing how an initial abortion actually leads frequently to subsequent abortions and pointing out the disproportionate impact abortion has in Black communities.
The article — “Who’s Getting Abortions in America” — examined data from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), last updated in 2019, and the pro-abortion Guttmacher Institute from 2014. The data highlighted by the newspaper, which strongly supports abortion rights, said that 60% of women who seek abortion have other children, 43% are in their first six weeks of pregnancy, and the majority of abortion-minded women are in their 20s, with just 9% being in their teens and a third of the women being older than 30.
While a substantial number of them, 41%, have attended at least some college, 49% were below the poverty line, with another 26% being low-income but just above the poverty line. The Times also noted that 58% of these women were having an abortion for the first time, 24% had a previous abortion, and less than one-fifth had two or more.
Tessa Longbons, senior research associate at the pro-life Charlotte Lozier Institute, pushed back on some of the New York Times’ findings, commenting that its presentation of the Guttmacher and CDC data “echoed abortion-industry talking points” that “the typical abortion patient is already a mother and is having her first abortion.” This is done “to make abortion seem normal and something that most women experience, a regular part of women’s reproductive lives, but when you actually look at the data, that’s not really the case,” she said.
Longbons, who has worked on analyzing data on women who get abortions with James Studnicki, the vice president of data analytics at the Charlotte Lozier Institute, pointed out that Guttmacher gets its data from “surveys that abortion patients will take while they’re at the clinic,” and the CDC gets “information voluntarily reported to them by the different states who then collect their information from abortion providers.”
By contrast, the data from the Charlotte Lozier Institute looked at “not just women who were getting abortions, but everyone.” They did this by examining data from 17 states that fund abortions for Medicaid-eligible women, seeking to learn “how abortion was fitting in with other pregnancy outcomes” for these women.
In one paper, published in July 2021, they analyzed nearly 8 million pregnancies from 5 million women from 1999 to 2014. Women with abortions and no births made up less than 7% of the study population but accounted for more than 50% of the abortions, contradicting the Times’ implication that this circumstance is not typical. Moreover, women who had live births but no abortions represented 74.2% of the study population and accounted for 87.6% of total births.
While the 2019 CDC data found that 60% of women getting abortions had other children, Longbons emphasized that, “when you’re looking at everyone — women with abortions; women without abortions — it becomes much more clear that abortion is not a normal experience for women with children. It’s not a regular part of motherhood.”
Longbons also cited a July 2020 research paper from Studnicki, examining the pregnancy-outcome patterns of women on Medicaid. It found women whose first pregnancy was an abortion had more pregnancies and abortions overall, whereas women whose first pregnancy was a birth had fewer subsequent pregnancies but those pregnancies were more likely to be births.
That study, she said, “really showed that having an abortion would put women on this trajectory of going on to have more abortions.”
Impact on the Black Community
Another area Longbons highlighted was The New York Times’ methodology of excluding “measures of race in this article,” on the grounds that “CDC data is less complete than for other measures.” Longbons said that if the Times had looked “further into race,” they would have seen “a long-term disparity between the abortion rates for Black women and the abortion rates for white women, with Black women having much higher abortion rates.”
While she acknowledged that “it’s difficult to compare state to state because states collect the information in different ways,” she said that, “looking at state data, looking at CDC data, that has been very consistent: that the Black abortion rate is several times the white abortion rate.” Indeed, according to an August 2020 Charlotte Lozier Institute study of available CDC data, the Black abortion rate is more than three times higher than the rate among whites.
“It’s definitely very concerning when this issue of the racial disparity in abortion is overlooked, because it’s missing the impact of abortion on minority women,” she said.
Ryan Bomberger, a pro-life activist and founder of the Radiance Foundation, told the Register that this disproportionately high abortion rate has been “consistent for years and years.” He said abortion “is an industry that was birthed out of eugenics racism,” pointing to Manhattan, where Planned Parenthood is based and where “more Black babies are aborted than born alive.” Even left-leaning PolitiFact acknowledged this to be true for all of New York City in 2015, stating that “more abortions were recorded for Black woman than live births.”
As far as what causes Black women to seek abortion, Bomberger said that “the main reason that women give, according to Guttmacher, is that they’re not financially prepared for the pregnancy, and that doesn’t matter whether you’re white, Black or any hue in between.” He said that “there is a huge disparity in poverty,” highlighting the poverty rate being more than double in the Black community compared to the white community. Bomberger said that “there’s not a single statistic” showing that abortion helps address poverty, and, “if anything, abortion perpetuates poverty because it keeps these circumstances that led to the abortion in the first place the same, which is primarily the dismantling of the family.”
He also cited the targeting of the Black community by Planned Parenthood, saying that if you examine the history, “there’s no denying that the Black community has been targeted initially with birth control and that was through The Negro Project, and the promise was that it would reduce or eliminate poverty.”
Addressing Women’s Underlying Needs
One element of The New York Times article that does resonate with pro-life advocates is the data showing that the majority of these women are poor and unmarried. In regard to the majority of women who seek abortion being low-income, pro-life pregnancy-care centers are trying to assist them by addressing their material needs.
There are “very simple, straightforward reasons that women seek abortion,” Chelsey Youman, Texas state director and national legislative adviser for The Human Coalition, told the Register. The Human Coalition is a pro-life nonprofit group that operates marketing outreach and contact centers for abortion-minded women. It also operates pregnancy-care centers and has six divisions in abortion-dense cities, which “continually test and optimize their practices” in order to “listen to and serve the abortion-determined community with greater effectiveness.”
Youman said that according to the group’s internal data on the clients they serve, “76% of them say, ‘If my circumstances were different, I would prefer to parent.’” The Human Coalition assists them with childcare, employment and affordable housing, she said, which are “the top reasons women cite that they’re seeking abortions.”
“None of that is that they just don’t want the child,” Youman noted. “All of that is external to them, and so we find, once they engage that support system like us or we start to get them connected with people in their community, they often feel empowered to make the choice they truly wanted to make all along, which is to parent.”
Breaking Cycles of Trauma
Pamela Whitehead, who runs ProLove Ministries and the pro-life pregnancy help line LoveLine, told the Register that one big takeaway from the CDC and Guttmacher data is that these women are in crisis, and “you don’t end her pregnancy and think that’s going to solve her crisis. She’s still in crisis because the pregnancy isn’t the crisis; it’s life.”
Since LoveLine began more than two years ago, it has served more than 1,000 women seeking abortion and affected more than 2,400 children. Whitehead said that 57% of clients are fleeing domestic violence, 42% have a history of substance abuse, 37% have a history of either sexual assault or sexual abuse, and 25% have been sexually exploited in some way. She said that for these women who “were sexually assaulted or abused at some point in their life who have not healed from that trauma, they’re still making a decision based on that history and that trauma.”
In her experience at LoveLine, one of their most beneficial services has been “therapy at no cost” because “we’re able to get to their root causes of why they make the decisions that they make, and they’re able to see for themselves how to change the trajectory of their life. Abortion just adds another seemingly bad decision on top of the ones that got them in the situation they’re in right now.”
Lisa Rowe, CEO of Support After Abortion, told the Register that the CDC and Guttmacher data about the single woman and the impoverished woman is “consistent with” what her organization has seen in their outreach to women healing after choosing abortion. She said her group, whose hotline gets 200 new calls a month, is trying to “help people understand that all those statistics are true because of underlying trauma, because of an existing pattern of behavior within the family.”
“The poverty exists, the single parenting exists” among these women who have had abortions, she said. “The reason they exist is because there’s trauma.”
Given the studies showing that around 50% of the abortions happening every year are on women who have already had prior abortions, Rowe asked, “What if abortion healing becomes so common she’s not going to go back for that second or third abortion?”
If so, she continued, that would mean pro-lifers “could end 500,000 abortions in our country by providing healing. There’s so much more that we can be doing through this healing arm, and that’s what we see the pro-life movement better understanding today.”
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