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Study suggests reasoning for early, late abortion procedures

Guttmacher Institute identifies factors contributing to skew in abortion timing

<p>Teens and those experiencing a variety of barriers to abortion care have a lower than average proportion of early abortions.</p>

Teens and those experiencing a variety of barriers to abortion care have a lower than average proportion of early abortions.

Being under age 20, requiring financial assistance for the operation or residing in a location mandating in-person counseling prior to the procedure have been identified as factors decreasing the prevalence of very early term abortions.

The Guttmacher Institute, with offices in both Washington, D.C. and New York, recently published a study investigating early abortion statistics. In particular, the center focused on characteristics associated with patients opting for very early abortions — defined as within the first six weeks of gestation — as opposed to later ones. Several factors were taken into account for the study, including reliance on financial assistance, legal restrictions and access to care.

Principal research scientist Rachel Jones and research assistant Jenna Jerman at the Guttmacher Institute headed the study from 2014 to 2015. Following a distribution of written surveys to abortion patients, researchers analyzed the data, examining associations between timing of the procedure and general characteristics and circumstances of the patient.

Rebecca Wind, associate director of communications at the Guttmacher Institute, said that trends for abortions have remained fairly constant, with the majority of procedures taking place in the first trimester.

“This study was designed to look at who the abortion patients are that access very early abortions, and who are the patients who access second trimester abortions, how they differ and what obstacles may be in place for those patients who are delayed,” Wind said in an email statement.

The survey represented the fifth of a series of national surveys conducted by the Institute on abortion patients. Data from 8,380 patients in 87 facilities — including physicians’ offices and clinics — was collected.

First-year College student Emily Deschambault identified abortion as a taboo topic.

“Anti-abortion extremists and politicians are more visible than ever due to mainstream media coverage,” Deschambault said in an email statement. “This makes their views appear widespread despite the fact that the majority of Americans support a woman's right to abortion in all or most circumstances.”

Deschambault explained that some of the social stigmas associated with abortion arise in the politics and language surrounding it.

“If someone has terminated a pregnancy and sees politicians referring to her reproductive choice as murder, she would likely have little desire to share her choice publicly,” Deschambault said. “When a medical procedure becomes so strongly politicized, we lose the ability to speak openly about it.”

State legislation regarding abortions includes mandated waiting periods, counseling attendance and consent to an ultrasound. Several states require that the woman be told that personhood begins at conception or that information is given related to fetuses’ ability to feel pain.

Virginia is among states requiring a waiting period, counseling and an ultrasound, with the intention to dissuade female patients from pursuing abortions. Other restrictions — such as under the Affordable Care Act — include allowing public funding for procedures only in the event of rape, incest or severe medical reasons.

Wind hopes research studies such as this might highlight potentials for increasing early, as opposed to late, abortions.

“If more states enact these types of restrictions, we could see additional delays and increases in women obtaining abortions at later gestations,” Wind said. “We are hopeful that increased knowledge of who accesses abortions at very early gestations and who is delayed can inform policies and facilitate timely access to abortion services.”