The difference is striking in a conservative state that is home to some of the nation's most restrictive abortion laws and has a population that values marriage and large families. It's a percentage that has remained high for more than two decades. Yet understanding what's behind the numbers and what it says about
No research exists to explain why such a large share of women who choose abortion in
"We're a marrying people," said
That said, she added, "That rate sounds way high. ... It doesn't sound right."
But according to the
In 2013, 746 married women had abortions in
"All the abortions I perform are for maternal indications or fetal anomalies," said Dr.
But it's impossible to know for sure, since abortion providers vary in how they report the reasons their patients have abortions, and some believe that the reasons shouldn't be reported at all.
Abortion by the numbers
Not every state asks women who get abortions their marital status. In fact, not every state reports its abortions to the
Forty-seven states and territories reported their abortions to the
Among women who had an abortion in
In assessing the data,
"This might be explained by the particular religious character of
"I would speculate that married
Sixty-four percent of the population is "highly religious," making
"Our rate of abortion is lower than in many states, and I've always believed that people in
"But the reality is, once women are pregnant, they look at the circumstances in their life and in their family's life," Galloway said. "These are not careless decisions, they're not capricious decisions, but it's a decision a woman has the right to make."
She agrees that married women choose abortion for many of the same reasons that single women do, and she says a perceived lack of resources is a common one. One study has shown that nearly three-quarters of women who have abortions say they do so because they don't have enough money to raise the child, which is why some abortion opponents offer financial assistance to help convince women not to terminate their pregnancies.
"They may also feel that they have as many children as they can handle, or maybe they feel like their family is complete," Francis said, adding that she's also encountered married women who wanted an abortion because the baby wasn't the gender the parents wanted.
"That's not common, but unfortunately, I've run across that before," she said.
Francis said sophisticated prenatal testing may also contribute to the decision - as well as non-invasive prenatal screenings that aren't as reliable.
For example, maternal blood tests during pregnancy can indicate the odds of a child having Down syndrome, but the condition cannot be diagnosed without chorionic villus sampling and amniocentesis, an invasive procedure in which fluid is removed from the womb.
She recalled a former patient - a married woman with four children - who came to her practice after having had an abortion because of a blood test that suggested the child could have Down syndrome.
Of her patient, who regretted having had the abortion, Francis said, "Her story is probably not uncommon at all; I'm sure for a large portion of women, the reasons are very similar."
'A terrible event'
Draper was married and had a blended family with six children, and she and her husband had spent nearly
At the time Draper was active in her Mormon congregation (she has since left the faith), and she and her husband counseled with their church leaders, who supported their decision. But she still felt terribly guilty although her life would have been endangered by the dead fetus had she continued with the pregnancy, and that the other twin's brain had grown outside of his head and his spine was open to his waist because of severe spina bifida, a neural tube defect.
An attorney who has since remarried, Draper shared her experience on Facebook in a post that went viral during the 2016 presidential campaign after late-term abortion came up in a televised debate.
"I was very pro-life, and I still am. I'm not pro-abortion," Draper said, although she has publicly decried efforts to end access to abortions after 20 weeks.
"My decision was the most terrible decision I've ever made - not terrible in the result, but the most horrible thing I ever dealt with. These babies were wanted, loved babies that were not going to live," she said.
Reasons for abortion
While the rate of women having abortions who are married is high compared to other states, it's low compared to the rest of the world. A study published last year in the medical journal The
Abortion is declining both in the
In contrast to Draper's experience, most abortions involve unplanned pregnancies, which, according to Dr.
Intrauterine devices (IUDs), contraceptive implants and sterilization are more than 99 percent effective, Torres said, but "nothing is 100 percent guaranteed" even when used correctly. She said she has performed abortions on married women whose husbands had vasectomies.
"People come to me in this situation where they're flabbergasted and say 'I can't believe I'm here,' and I feel so horrible for them because obviously I can't believe they're here, either."
Guttmacher researchers say that few studies have addressed the reasons women have abortions, but in those that exist, women commonly say lack of a partner and unreadiness for parenthood are concerns that accompany those about money.
Such reasons would be considered "elective" in the questionnaire that abortion providers fill out in
"I'm not given an option of 'doesn't want to be pregnant.' If that box were there, I would check that box, and that box would be checked every time," Torres said.
Abortion providers can also choose "maternal life endangered," fetal malformation, rape, incest and "other" as the reason for an abortion. It's a reporting system that could be improved, said Heuser, the maternal/fetal medicine specialist in
"The data collection tools that we have for this kind of thing are imperfect, so the same thing may get categorized differently depending on who fills out the form," she said.
In 2013, 2,831 abortions in
"There may be some women who are going through marital difficulties, and maybe their marriage is on the rocks. And there are a few women who've had extramarital affairs, and that's why they were seeking an abortion," said Francis, of the
But Torres says there's essentially one reason behind every abortion, and it shouldn't require further explanation: "I'm pregnant, and I don't want to be."
A range of solutions
For parents-to-be confronting the likelihood of a severely deformed or sick child, Francis says perinatal hospice may be an alternative to abortion. The practice supports women who choose to continue their pregnancies after their fetuses are diagnosed with a life-threatening or life-shortening condition.
Communities should also offer a strong network of support for struggling families, encompassing everything from supplies (such as cribs, clothes, diapers, breastfeeding supplies and formula) to child care and parent mentoring, she said.
Scheidler, with the
It's a volatile issue. "However, with the composition of the Supreme Court likely to change in the coming years, it might be possible to reintroduce measures requiring a father be informed about abortion," Scheidler said.
For couples whose faith groups allow birth control (the
And Galloway points out that social policies that make people more financially secure, such as affordable health care and insurance, also make them less likely to choose abortion.
Couples, she said, "are much more eager to plan and expand their families in times when they feel economically confident."