People have abortions for many reasons. Some end a pregnancy because of health concerns or fetal anomalies, and others may choose to terminate an unintended pregnancy.
The term “unintended pregnancy” does not always explain the reasons and personal circumstances behind a person’s decision to have an abortion. Often, people who have had an abortion feel too judged to discuss their reasons or feelings afterward.
People may choose to end a pregnancy for a range of reasons, and there is no invalid reason to have an abortion. Pregnant individuals should not feel judged or unsafe when making their decision.
This article discusses the reasons a person may have an abortion. It also examines why some people have later-term abortions and how they access abortion services.
On June 24, 2022, the Supreme Court of the United States overturned Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 ruling that secured a person’s constitutional right to an abortion.
This means that individual states are now able to decide their own abortion laws. As a result, many states will ban or severely restrict abortion access.
The information in this article was accurate and up to date at the time of publication, but the facts may have changed since. Anyone looking to learn more about their legal rights can message the Repro Legal Helpline via a secure online form or call 844-868-2812.
All reasons for abortion are valid, and the decision to end a pregnancy is very personal. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC),
Around 40% of people in the study mentioned a financial reason for needing an abortion. Most of them had general financial concerns or said they could not afford to support a child.
Around 4% said a lack of employment contributed to their decision, and 0.6% said they terminated their pregnancies because of a lack of insurance or government assistance.
More than one-third (36%) of study participants cited reasons relating to timing. Some felt they were not emotionally or financially ready to have a baby, while others felt they were too old to have a child.
Almost one-third (31%) of study respondents gave reasons relating to their partner.
For example, some individuals said they did not have a good or stable relationship with their partner or that their partner was unsupportive. Around 8% wanted to get married before having children. Others mentioned that they had a partner who was abusive or who did not want the baby.
If you or someone you know is in immediate danger of domestic violence, call 911 or otherwise seek emergency help. Anyone who needs advice or support can contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline 24/7 via:
- phone, at 800-799-7233
- live chat, at thehotline.org
- text, by texting LOVEIS to 22522
Many other resources are available, including helplines, in-person support, and temporary housing. People can find local resources and others classified by demographics, such as support specifically for People of Color, here:
Around 29% of people mentioned that they needed to focus on their other children. They said they already felt overextended with their current children and would be overwhelmed by having another. A small percentage of people thought that having a baby would adversely affect their other children and quality of life.
Additionally, about 20% of people reported having an abortion because the timing would interfere with their future opportunities and goals. They felt they could not continue their education or advance their careers while raising a baby.
Emotions and mental health
Around 19% of people in the study expressed that they were emotionally or mentally unprepared for a child. They mentioned not having the mental capacity to have a baby or not feeling mentally stable enough to raise a child.
Other health-related reasons
Approximately 12% of individuals mentioned the following health-related reasons for having an abortion:
- concerns for their health
- concerns for the health of the fetus
- drug, tobacco, or alcohol use
- non-illicit prescription drug or birth control use
- worsening of existing health issues, such as back pain and diabetes
- mental health concerns
- the effect of medications for existing health conditions on the fetus
Inability to provide for a baby
Some people — around 12% — chose abortion because of their desire for a better life for the child than they could provide. They mentioned feeling inadequate and unable to care for themselves or a child.
Other people said their housing situation was unsuitable for a baby.
Not independent or mature enough for a baby
Just under 7% of people reported a lack of maturity or said they had to rely on other people. Some explained that they felt they were too young for a baby and were unprepared for parenthood.
Influences from family and friends
About 5% of people described influences from family and friends as a reason they chose abortion. They worried that a child would be a strain on their family or that they would experience judgment from others.
Some people had an abortion because they were too scared to tell their parents about their pregnancy, while a small proportion had pressure from family to end their pregnancy.
People sometimes call abortions that take place during the second trimester (weeks 14–27) and third trimester (weeks 28 onwards) “late-term abortions,” but this term is medically inaccurate. According to the
Reasons for abortions in the second or third trimester are similar to those in the first trimester. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF), people may have abortions later in pregnancy for the following reasons:
Nonmedical reasons people have abortions later in pregnancy include:
- not knowing they were pregnant until later in the pregnancy
- a lack of information about access to abortion care
- transportation difficulties
- a lack of insurance coverage
- difficulty raising money to pay for the procedure
Individuals may have abortions later in pregnancy because of the health of the fetus. Although tests can detect many genetic fetal anomalies early in pregnancy, structural anomalies are not usually apparent until a fetal anatomy scan at 20 weeks. This scan provides ultrasound imaging of the developing organs.
Some of these anomalies can be fatal, meaning the fetus will die shortly before or after birth. In these circumstances, people may make the difficult decision to terminate a desired pregnancy rather than continue.
Life threatening risk
Some people have life threatening health conditions that arise later in pregnancy. In these situations, a person may decide to end a pregnancy to preserve their own life.
Life threatening conditions may include:
- severe preeclampsia
- cancer requiring immediate treatment
- intrauterine infection with premature amniotic sac rupture
Since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade on June 24, 2022, restrictions on accessing abortion care have increased significantly. Preventing people from accessing safe abortions performed by trained healthcare professionals in sanitary conditions does not change their reasons for needing one and
However, it may force them to seek out unsafe procedures performed by people without the necessary skills and in environments that do not conform to medical standards.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), around
The WHO says unsafe abortion is a leading preventable cause of maternal deaths.
Unsafe abortions can result in physical and mental health complications and financial and social burdens. According to one published estimate, banning abortion in the U.S. could lead to a 21% increase in the total deaths relating to pregnancy and a 33% increase among Black females.
Although there are many restrictions on abortion access, people can use a resource called Abortion Finder from the National Abortion Federation to find in-person and virtual abortion services.
Learn more about family planning and abortion care in abortion-restricted states.
People may have an abortion for several reasons, including lack of finances, timing, partner-related reasons, and more. Most abortions take place within the first 13 weeks of pregnancy. However, some people may need abortions later in pregnancy to preserve their health or the health of the fetus.
Criminalizing abortion does not tend to stop people from having abortions, but it does increase complications and deaths. To ensure their safety and protect their dignity, it is crucial that people have access to safe abortions performed by trained professionals in sanitary conditions.