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Cost of living a significant factor driving abortion numbers

Close up of sad pensive millennial woman sit alone

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Christine Pellen - published on 07/01/23

While abortion is promoted as a freedom of choice for women, recent research confirms that they most often feel forced by external circumstances.

The BBC recently reported that in Scotland last year, a “record number” of abortions may have been motivated by “cost of living concerns,” according to a study by the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS).

In 2022, 16,584 abortions were carried out, according to data from Public Health Scotland. This represents an increase of 19%. But this growth is not uniform. The British news outlet reports:

While the number of abortions rose among all income groups, the increase was less pronounced in more affluent areas.

A total of 4,744 terminations were recorded for women living in the poorest areas of the country, compared to 2,219 in the most well-off places.

BPAS’s Racheal Clarke notes a “really big increase in the number of women coming to us” over the past 18 months. “Particularly an increase in women who are very worried about the cost of living and the impact that’s going to have on them and their families,” she explains. They are women “who, a few years ago, may have chosen to continue a pregnancy, who ultimately now are faced with really difficult decisions about the future of their job, their certainty of housing, about whether they can afford food and heating and electricity.”

A “hidden epidemic”

The Scottish women are not an isolated case. In fact, a peer-reviewed study published by the medical journal Cureus shows that only a third of women who have had an abortion really wanted to do so.

For 43% of women, it was something “inconsistent with their values and preferences,” even though they had accepted it. And 24% said their abortion was “unwanted or coerced.” According to the study, there is “consistent evidence that a substantial percentage of women are aborting pregnancies that were planned or welcomed, often due to pressure to abort from others or circumstances.”

The study involved 1,000 US women aged 41 to 45, 226 of whom had had abortions. A full 60% of the women who had undergone an abortion said that “they would have preferred to give birth if they had received either more emotional support or had more financial security.” Although “negative and positive reactions frequently co-exist,” lead study author David Reardon says, “This study confirms earlier findings that the hidden epidemic of unwanted abortions is real, and far larger than most people imagine,” says David C. Reardon, author of the study published by Cureus. 

“We need to discard the dangerous assumption that ‘freedom of choice’ reflects the reality behind most women’s experiences with abortion,” Reardon writes. “Only the minority of abortions are freely chosen absent outside pressures.”

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