I've always kind of thought that even if someone can't think far enough ahead to be able to say "It would be a lot easier to use a condom than to go in for yet another abortion," I don't know why we think they'd be better off having kids.


According to this CDC chart for 2002, it appears to me that whether women are using abortion as contraception might depend on where they live. In New York City, for example, 15% of all women who presented for an abortion had three or more previous abortions. Another 15.6% had two previous abortions. Compare this to the entire state of Texas, where 5% had three or more previous abortions, and 9.6% had two previous abortions. Also consider that it's very likely that many women will under report the number of previous abortions they've had, so all these numbers are probably higher. In any event, although it's no where near a majority, I'm guessing from the data that a significant portion of women who are having abortions do in fact utilize abortion as a form of "contraception."


Richard, I'm not sure the number of previous abortions is a sufficient marker for whether women are using abortion as contraception. Particularly since it doesn't consider how old the women with three or more are. To be honest, given the failure rates of most contraception methods, 3 failures across a reasonably active sex life isn't that surprising.

The Happy Feminist

Well, I think it's not quite right to refer to it as birth control in this case-- because obviously abortion is a form of controlling whether one gives birth, and there is no dispute that that is what abortion is. The real question is whether people are using this as "convenient" birth control, i.e. birth control in the absense of attempts to prevent pregnancy. The pro-life crowd often seems to imply that women are just shrugging their shoulders and saying, "Whatever -- I won't worry about contraception now, I'll just get an abortion if I have to." And it seems unlikely that anyone who has been through an experiencel like BB's would use abortion in this way.

The Happy Feminist

I would never draw the inference you draw, Richard, from the fact that a minority of women (even a significant minority) have multiple abortions. It's sort of a "let them eat cake" point of view.

According to the New Republic,* studies show that the women most likely to have repeat abortions are the poor, minorities, and victims of sexual assault.* Education and access to effective birth control are less available to these groups of women. Also, these women are often more dependent and less likely to stand up to a man who refuses to use a condom. (See Hugo's blog for an interesting discussion on that phenomenon!) And finally, don't forget those women who are repeatedly victimized sexually -- some women are preyed upon multiple times because of their circumstances.

In other words, there are plenty of important reasons that a woman would have multiple abortions. This is quite different from the flippant attitude inferred by the pro-life crowd of, "Oh, I just feel like having sex without contraception -- I can just endure that jackhammer to the guts to take care of matters if I get pregnant!"

* Unfortunately, the article isn't easily accessible but check out Scott's post on same: http://lefarkins.blogspot.com/2005/12/new-republic-itis.html

The Happy Feminist

When you compare the numbers of multiple abortions in NYC (around 15%) to say NY state (around 4%), it is really tragic. I assume the difference is due to poor women and young women in NY state not having ready access to a nearby abortion clinic. I am guessing a lot of women in more rural areas, whether in NY state or Texas, are undergoing unwanted pregnancies and births!


I don't know to what extent this would skew the numbers, but isn't NYC a popular destination for women from out of state who are getting abortions that are unavailable where they live? If this effect is large it might not be safe to draw any conclusions about the behaviour of NYC women who get abortions from data about women who got abortions in NYC.


I couldn't help but notice the "evil New Yorker" undercurrent in Richard's comment. Of course, he'll probably deny that he actually *said* anything untoward -- he was afterall, just stating facts.

In any event, it would be silly to think that incentives don't matter. More women will have abortions where it is easier to get them, and they will likely have more of them. However, to be fair in your analysis, you really also need to compare the numbers of women having unwanted children between Texas and (the evil) New York City also.

Classifying abortion as "birth control" is sematics used to inflame peoples' emotions, just as much as classifying the fetus as a "baby" is. Staying away from rhetorical arguments and sticking to what actually happens would probably actually help the conversation between the pro-lifers and pro-choicers a lot.

The Happy Feminist

Good point, Kali. I bet a lot of women getting abortions on NYC are from outside the city so it's definitely a skewed stat.

The Happy Feminist

I also didn't mean to imply in my prior comment that all minorities and poor women are more likely to be uneducated about birth control or lack access to it -- but it seems to me that there is likely to be a correlation there.

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