Women Getting Abortions Seven Times More Likely to Be Abused

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Sep 5, 2012   |   1:02PM   |   Washington, DC

The issue of rape and abortion has been at the forefront of the national conversation over abortion, but a new study finds women who get abortions are more likely to face physical abuse.

Published in the Journal of Family Planning and Reproductive Health Care, a new study finds women who seek abortions are seven times more likely to be abused than women who do not. The researchers behind the study also found poorer women were more likely than affluent women to have an abortion when confronted with an unplanned pregnancy.

The study involved 9,500 women who completed a questionnaire distributed by staff at abortion clinics in 2008. The study found seven percent of women getting abortions surveyed admitted suffering from physical or sexual abuse by the father of their child. With national surveys finding just one percent of U.S. women are abused by their spouse, the numbers show a clear spike for women getting abortions.

“Most women accessing abortion services in the USA had dealt with at least one disruptive event in the 12 months preceding the abortion,” the study said, with researchers saying the numbers should be considered a “conservative” estimate, since many women are hesitant to report such rape or abuse.

“More than half (57%) of the women obtaining abortions experienced a potentially disruptive event within the last year, most commonly unemployment (20%), separation from a partner (16%), falling behind on rent/mortgage (14%) and/or moving multiple times (12%),” the survey noted. “Poverty status was significantly associated with several of the events, particularly those that could directly impact on a family’s economic circumstances, for example losing a job or having a baby. Information from the in-depth interviews suggested that disruptive events interfered with contraceptive use, but the quantitative survey found no difference in contraceptive use by exposure to disruptive life events, even after controlling for poverty status.”

The study relies on data that came from a national sample of 9493 women obtaining abortions in 2008 and examined exposure to 11 potentially disruptive events.

This new study follows one from 2010 showing the link between abortion and the physical and sexual abuse as women may be subjected to in the relationship by their husband or boyfriend following the abortion. University of Iowa researchers led the 2010 study, which shows women seeking abortions have experienced a high rate of violence and abuse from their partners.

The 2010 study was published online June 17 in the American Journal of Public Health.

Audrey Saftlas, a University of Iowa professor of epidemiology and lead author of the study, talked about the results her team found.

“Women seeking termination of pregnancy comprise a particularly high-risk group for physical or sexual assault,” she said. “In our study, almost 14 percent of women receiving an abortion reported at least one incident of physical or sexual abuse in the past year.”

“These findings strongly support the need for clinic-based screening with interventions. These high-risk women need resources, referrals and support to help them and their families reduce the violence in their lives,” Saftlas added.

The researchers examined 986 women who had abortions and completed questionnaires.



Overall, the researchers found the combined one-year prevalence of physical or sexual abuse by any perpetrator was 13.8 percent. The prevalence of physical and sexual violence by an intimate partner was 9.9 percent and 2.5 percent, respectively.

Of the women who reported such pre-abortion violence, 74 percent of women identified their former partner as the perpetrator of the violence and 27 percent identified a current partner as responsible for the violence.The numbers don’t add up to 100 percent because some women reported violence by both current and former partners.

“These figures suggest that women seeking abortions have frequently left abusive relationships in the months before the abortion,” Saftlas said.

As a result, women who have had abortions or speak out for their say abortion centers should ask women if they are having an abortion as a result of partner abuse and assault and suggest that abortion may not be in their best interest or resolve those abuse and assault situations.