It often seems the abortion debate is in stalemate with pro-choicers proclaiming a womanís right to choose whilst pro-lifers focus on the unborn childís right to life. Yet, pro-life people like ourselves are very keen to get a good deal for women and when we speak to pro-choice people, we donít find that they hold the lives of unborn children in disregard. Most pro-choicers have compassion for women in difficult situations and feel it would be wrong to deny any woman a way out in their hour of need. In short, they support abortion only as a necessary evil.
We started to wonder if it might be possible to improve the situations of pregnant women and the parents of young children so that abortion might actually become unnecessary. As a first step we tried to find objective information on why women chose abortion. However, it became clear that this was an area that had not previously been looked into.
We therefore conducted an on-line survey through ComReswww.comres.co.uk an independent market research company. The survey was carried out between 19/11/07 and 14/1/08 and was completed by 209 women aged 20 Ė 40 in England and Wales. The women were asked what made them choose abortion and about their feelings around the whole experience.
All comments made appear sincere with no evidence of any attempt to prejudice the study.
On average, women felt 2 specific factors were very important and 1 fairly important.
The women felt the following specific factors were very important in their decision to choose abortion:
Many women felt they had no choice but to have an abortion. 26% felt this was very important and 25% fairly important.
As regards the womenís feelings around the whole experience.
There is no one particular factor that pushes women towards abortion. It seems that often it is a combination of factors that result in them making the decision. The most important factors are the relationship to the father, financial issues and the reactions of others. Clearly, a multi-factorial approach is needed in resolving these. Some areas may be more difficult to deal with than others. Resolving relationship problems may be very hard to achieve but kinder reactions to women in difficult situations may not. It may be that for many women, relatively small and simple improvements may be enough to swing the balance away from abortion.
Many pregnant women who choose abortion do so because they feel they have no other choice. As such, the idea of abortion being a womanís choice is very much an illusion. It is clear also that women do not embark on abortion lightly. Many are in turmoil before choosing abortion. Many continue to think about their abortion several years on and wish things could have been different. One in seven women (14%) now feel they made the wrong decision - if we extrapolate that is equivalent to 28,000 regretted abortions per year in the UK. In light of these findings, we feel that pro-choice society cannot continue to ignore this issue.
We recognise also that this survey only gives a glimpse of what causes women to choose abortion. The medical profession needs to engage with the abortion issue and develop research to analyse what makes a pregnancy a crisis pregnancy and what makes a woman in a crisis pregnancy choose abortion Ė with a view to resolving these issues. The fact that one in eight women undergoing abortion actually believe it to be the wrong decision at the time of the abortion highlights the professionís obligation to get involved.
Overall, these results show that abortion is a very painful process for women and that they choose this option only because they are in very difficult situations. This study provides a mandate for getting a better deal for pregnant women and the parents of young children. We do not believe that society really wants to push women into abortion due to external pressures of finance, education, employment or attitude.
*For some women, more than one of these factors were involved. Hence they are not additive.
Click here to see full results.
Click here to see press release.
Acknowledgements: thanks to James Gerrard and Sue Cowan.