25% of Women Getting Abortions Faced Physical, Sexual or Emotional Abuse Beforehand

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jan 8, 2014   |   4:06PM   |   Washington, DC

A new study reveals that about 25 percent of women who got an abortion faced some sort of abuse beforehand — whether it be physical, sexual or emotional in nature. The study, a new meta-analysis published in the peer-reviewed medical journal PLOS Medicine, provides more confirmation that abortion is part of the pattern of abuse against women.

“Intimate partner violence (IPV) and termination of pregnancy (TOP) are global health concerns, but their interaction is undetermined. The aim of this study was to determine whether there is an association between IPV and TOP,” the authors write.

To conduct the study, the authors surveyed 74 studies regarding women who had undergone an abortion and had experienced at least one domain (physical, sexual, or emotional) of intimate partner violence. Sample sizes ranged from eight to 33,385 participants in the studies they reviewed.

“Worldwide, rates of IPV in the preceding year in women undergoing TOP ranged from 2.5% to 30%. Lifetime prevalence by meta-analysis was shown to be 24.9% (95% CI 19.9% to 30.6%),” they wrote. “By meta-analysis, partner not knowing about the TOP was shown to be significantly associated with IPV. ”
Women in violent relationships were more likely to have concealed the abortion from their partner, the study found, than those who were not.

“IPV is associated with TOP,” the authors conclude. “Novel public health approaches are required to prevent IPV. TOP services provide an opportune health-based setting to design and test interventions.”

“These findings indicate that intimate partner violence is associated with termination of pregnancy and that a woman’s partner not knowing about the termination is a risk factor for intimate partner violence among women seeking termination. Overall, the researchers’ findings support the concept that violence can lead to pregnancy and to subsequent termination of pregnancy, and that there may be a repetitive cycle of abuse and pregnancy,” they said.

As the authors found, previous studies have associated abuse with abortion.

Published in the Journal of Family Planning and Reproductive Health Care, a 2012 study found 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.



“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.

Citation: Hall M, Chappell LC, Parnell BL, Seed PT, Bewley S (2014) Associations between Intimate Partner Violence and Termination of Pregnancy: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. PLoS Med 11(1): e1001581. doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001581