Our Surreal Abortion Debate

One of the truly bizarre things about the recent focus of the abortion debate on the ‘rape exception’ is rape is not even close to a minor reason for abortion. That’s not to say that the Republican position on rape is acceptable: the idea that a woman would be forced to bear her rapist’s child–and in a majority of states the rapist could have visitation rights–is an abomination*. But according to a 2004 Guttmacher survey, here’s why women said that had an abortion (I know, listening to women, how silly!):


These data could underestimate the medical reasons for abortion, since emergency room/hospital abortions wouldn’t have been surveyed (the women had received their abortions at clinics). But you’ll notice that rape is really low (~1%). Most women are getting abortions, in part, for economic reasons. About a third of women, in both 2004 and 1987, stated that they weren’t ready for a(nother) child–and that was a write-in question (one wonders how many more would answered that if it had been a stated option).

To reduce the abortion question to one of post-rape survivorship is to ignore the reproductive reality of women. As long as women have been getting pregnant, they have felt the need to become ‘unpregnant.’ Those economic and basic life reasons existed long before a liberal majority on the U.S. Supreme Court: you’re kidding yourself if you believe that women didn’t have abortions before 1973. But unlike the bad old days, they can now do so safely and legally. That’s a good thing, and that’s what we should be discussing.

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2 Responses to Our Surreal Abortion Debate

  1. becca says:

    Really struck by the trends over time. Particularly a general shift away from “I’m not ready for this kid/I’m too young” toward “I’m not ready for another kid/I’m too old”.
    Since both can dovetail with economic reasons, I wonder if there are more older, economically insecure women with children in 2004 compared to 1987. Particularly because the number of women who were having abortions in part because of not wanting to marry the father went down so much. Maybe women feel more comfortable with single motherhood, more comfortable with combining work/school and motherhood, but no more *able* to actually look after the (additional) kids given their constraints.

  2. Pingback: [link] Rape Exceptions? Many Women in the United States Are Already Living That Nightmare « slendermeans

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