A client facing the decision of whether or not to have an abortion is making a serious and emotional decision that is marked by strong consideration of various factors. As is often for clients, regardless of whether they themselves are for or against abortion personally and/or politically, the decision is different when it is them making it. The decision to have an abortion is an emotionally significant one and although counseling is not required, with the exception of a few states in the United States, health care providers are expected to provide quality, non-judgmental and non-biased emotional care. The factors that can influence a client’s decision to have an abortion include but are not limited to age, race, sex, physical health considerations, culture, religious background, educational background and the predictions about short-term and long-term consequences physically and mentally.
Despite the amount of literature on abortion decision, there is little consensus about defined factors within the life cycle of a woman and her abortion decision. In reality, there are sociodemographic, financial and reproductive factors, as well as traits of intimate relationships that affect the decision. A telephone interview study conducted in France in September 2000 and January 2001 showed that among 18 to 44-year-old women, who had an abortion as a result of an unintended pregnancy in the last five years, found that the greatest factors were related to educational level and marital status—being single and being a student contributed greatly to that decision. Among 25 to 34-year-old women, wanting to stop having children when they reached the desired number of children best explained the decision to have an abortion (Sihvo et al.). Older women’s’ elective abortions were because of their work positions and situations, or when their partnered relationships were too unstable to bring a child into. Higher levels of education also increased the likelihood of abortion. The reality is that there is usually a multitude of reasons why a woman has an abortion and there is no single cause or reason.
Of the reasons previously mentioned, as well as those from research from the Guttmacher Institute, it can be inferred that with higher levels of education and more responsibilities at work, a child would interfere with such, compounded by unreadiness for having a child. Along racial and educational lines, black and Hispanic women, along with poorer and less educated women, cited having completed childbearing and not wanting to take on responsibility for more dependents as reasons for abortion. For clients of strong religious backgrounds or cultures, races and ethnicities that look down upon abortion (or even adoption), these factors may have a stronger impact, yet it cannot be ignored that race, sex and class intertwine. For poorer individuals, the majority of whom are racial and ethnic minorities, a lower socioeconomic status can closely correlate to lower education levels, which may decrease the likelihood of abortion.
Regarding short-term and long-term consequences, the fear of which can be an influencing factor, research shows that severe negative reactions to abortion are infrequent, particularly when it was an informed decision that the individual made. Emotional reactions ranging from mild regret to suicidal thoughts and feelings can occur, vary across individual and are valid. However, legal termination in the first trimester rarely poses a psychological hazard. In fact, emotional turmoil peaks prior to the procedure, especially when women have limited legal access to abortion and few other options, leading them to have to make dangerous decisions. After the procedure, some women even feel relief. For the most part, severe negative reactions are uncommon the earlier the pregnancy is terminated and the more comfortable they are in their decision.
- Sihvo, S., Bajos, N., Ducot, B., & Kaminski, M. (2003). Women’s life cycle and abortion decision in unintended pregnancies. Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health, 57(8), 601-605.
- Upadhyay, U. D., Cockrill, K., & Freedman, L. R. (2010). Informing abortion counseling: An examination of evidence-based practices used in emotional care for other stigmatized and sensitive health issues. Patient Education and Counseling, 81, 415-421.