Reasons Why Women Have Induced Abortions: Evidence from 27 Countries

Akinrinola Bankole, Susheela Singh and Taylor Haas
International Family Planning Perspectives
Vol. 24, No. 3 (Sep., 1998), pp. 117-127+152
Published by: Guttmacher Institute
DOI: 10.2307/3038208
Stable URL:
Page Count: 12
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Reasons Why Women Have Induced Abortions:  Evidence from 27 Countries


Context: The immediate explanation that women often give for seeking induced abortion is that the pregnancy was unplanned or unwanted. However, the myriad social, economic and health circumstances that underlie such explanations have not yet been fully explored. Methods: Findings from 32 studies in 27 countries were used to examine the reasons that women give for having an abortion, regional patterns in these reasons and the relationship between such reasons and women's social and demographic characteristics. The data come from a range of sources, including nationally representative surveys, official government statistics, commu- nity-based studies and hospital- or clinic-based research. Results: Worldwide, the most commonly reported reason women cite for having an abortion is to postpone or stop childbearing. The second most common reason-socioeconomic concerns- includes disruption of education or employment; lack of support from the father; desire to pro- vide schooling for existing children; and poverty, unemployment or inability to afford additional children. In addition, relationship problems with a husband or partner and a woman's percep- tion that she is too young constitute other important categories of reasons. Women's charac- teristics are associated with their reasons for having an abortion: With few exceptions, older women and married women are the most likely to identify limiting childbearing as their main rea- son for abortion. Conclusions: Reasons women give for why they seek abortion are often far more complex than simply not intending to become pregnant; the decision to have an abortion is usually motivated by more than one factor. While improved contraceptive use can help reduce unintended preg- nancy and abortion, some abortions will remain difficult to prevent, because of limits to women's ability to determine and control all circumstances of their lives.