Scourge of abortion more common among poor women, says report

.- Poor women are increasingly likely to have unwanted pregnancies and abortions than affluent women, says a recent study on pregnancy and abortion, conducted by the Guttmacher Institute. Researchers analyzed federal statistics gathered by the National Center for Health Statistics and other sources.

The report, released last week, will appear in the June edition of the peer-reviewed Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health, published by Guttmacher.

Although the report, released by the research arm of Planned Parenthood has received considerable criticism, it makes clear the dire problem of abortion in the U.S.--particularly among the impoverished.

The researchers found that from 1994 through 2001, the rate of unplanned pregnancies rose almost 30 percent for women below the federal poverty line. That rate fell by 20 percent during the same period for affluent women, reported the Washington Post.

The authors said the growing disparities between richer and poorer women appeared to be the result of greater contraceptive use by the more affluent. There were also racial differences. Black and Hispanic women were more likely to become pregnant than white women, and black women had the highest percentage of unintended pregnancies and abortions.

Asked what was driving the trends, the authors told the Washington Post that some state and federal sex-education programs have been cut in recent years. They say state and federal programs have increasingly focused on abstinence rather than contraception, which some analysts say has led to less contraceptive use and more unintended pregnancies.

But Leslee Unruh, president and founder of the Abstinence Clearinghouse, said the growing number of unintended pregnancies among poorer women shows that traditional sex education programs are failing.

"Programs for poor women are often so condescending, even degrading," she told the Post. "They teach how to put on a condom rather than how to take control of their lives."

The report also found that the overall abortion rate has declined and that a higher percentage of women with unintended pregnancies are carrying their babies to term. It also found that women who have abortions are doing so earlier in their pregnancies.

The overall pregnancy rate for women of child-bearing age declined slightly from 1994 to 2001, as did the abortion rate. There were 6.4 million pregnancies in the U.S. in 2001 and about 4 million births. There were 1.3 million abortions and 1.1 million miscarriages. The pregnancies were almost evenly divided between intended and unintended, and the unintended ones led to almost even numbers of births and abortions.

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