Why Do People Have Abortions?

While every person has unique reasons for seeking an abortion, researchers have found that those who've had the procedure report a number of common factors that influenced their decision. Chief among them? Financial concerns.

Other top issues that influence this choice are related to not being prepared to be a parent and the relationship with one's partner.

Reasons for Abortions %
Not financially prepared 40%
Not a good time 36%
Issues with partner 31%
Need to focus on other children 29%
Interferes with future plans 20%
Not emotionally or mentally prepared 19%
Health issue 12%
Unable to provide a “good” life 12%
Not independent or mature enough 7%
Influence from family or friends 5%
Don’t want children 3%

These findings are the result of a five-year survey of people who have had at least one abortion and were asked to give reasons they chose to terminate their pregnancy.

It's important to remember, however, that a wide range of factors affect the decision to have an abortion. These include very personal issues that cannot easily be understood by others or grouped into general categories.

This article looks at common reasons for abortions and important related considerations.

A young woman holding a pregnancy test


Economic concerns are the most commonly cited reasons women choose an abortion. There are numerous reasons why one may feel financially unprepared to be a parent.

Situations that impact financial security include being unemployed or underemployed, which means that you might be working but aren’t working in a position that fully uses your skills or allows you to reach your earning potential. 

Being uninsured falls under the financial umbrella as well. Government assistance is often available for those who lack health insurance or have low income, but not everyone qualifies. Others may have the need, but simply not want to rely on such aid.

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Feeling that it isn’t the right time to have a child is the second most commonly cited reason for seeking an abortion. This may be because the pregnancy was unplanned.

In some instances, women may feel they are too old, too busy, or not yet ready. Similarly, some women feel that they are not yet emotionally or mentally prepared to care for a child or even handle a pregnancy.

About 20% of those who seek an abortion specifically feel that being pregnant or having a child will negatively affect their future. They may choose to have an abortion because they want to avoid changes to their educational plans or careers, or they want to wait until they're more settled in life.

Partner and Family Issues

There are many issues in a relationship that affect a woman's decision to have an abortion. Marital status is just one of those.

The majority of women who choose to have an abortion are unmarried. According to data from 2019, 85.5% of those who had abortions were single women. For some of these women, the fact that they are unmarried contributes to their decision to seek an abortion. About 8% of those responding to the survey on reasons for having an abortion specifically note that they do not want to be a single parent.

About 5% of women say that their choice was influenced by family. This may be because they believe their family will not support them. A small percentage of women also say that they were directly pressured to have an abortion by family or friends.

Being in an abusive or unhappy relationship can also affect a person's decision. Data from the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey indicated that 2.9 million women (2.4%) report having a rape-related pregnancy in their lifetime, and 77% of these are caused by current or former intimate partners. Other studies have shown that 1% of women disclose their reason for having an abortion is due to rape/incest, and 50% of women who have rape-related pregnancies choose to have an abortion.

Other Children

About 59% of women who have abortions already have previously given birth to at least one child. 

In some instances, these women choose to have an abortion because they're concerned that they don’t have the time or resources to care for more children. These mothers may feel they are done having children or wish to space out their children. 

Health Reasons

About 12% of abortions are related to health issues. This can include concerns for the woman’s health related to serious illnesses. At times, the pregnancy itself can be a high risk to the mother's safety and well-being. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's national Pregnancy Mortality Surveillance System (PMSS), nearly one-third of all pregnancy-related deaths in the U.S. occur during the pregnancy.

There may also be worries about the health of the fetus after a medical condition is diagnosed during prenatal testing or due to the abuse of drugs or alcohol.


For most women who choose an abortion, not being able to manage the cost of raising a child plays a significant role in their decision. In each individual case, though, there are multiple factors including social, economic, medical, emotional, and familial issues.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • When do women usually have an abortion?

    Most abortions, 92%, take place within the first trimester. About 43% occur within six weeks. However, since the overturn of Roe in 2022, many women have lost access to the timely care they are seeking and may have to arrange travel across state lines pushing abortions further into their pregnancy.

  • When is an abortion medically recommended?

    Termination of a pregnancy for medical reasons may be recommended if:

    • The fetus has a medical condition that will be fatal before or soon after birth
    • The pregnancy puts the parent-to-be's life in danger
  • How many late-term abortions are there?

    Late-term abortions (performed after 21 weeks) account for only 1.2% of all abortions in the United States. The vast majority of these are for medical reasons.

10 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  3. Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Abortion surveillance — United States, 2019.

  4. Basile KC, Smith SG, Liu Y, et al. Rape-related pregnancy and association with reproductive coercion in the U.SAmerican Journal of Preventive Medicine. 2018;55(6):770-776. doi:org/10.1016/j.amepre.2018.07.028

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  6. Holmes MM, Resnick HS, Kilpatrick DG, Best CL. Rape-related pregnancy: Estimates and descriptive characteristics from a national sample of womenAmerican Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology. 1996;175(2):320-325. doi:10.1016/s0002-9378(96)70141-2

  7. Kaiser Family Foundation. Key facts on abortion in the United States.

  8. Petersen EE, Davis NL, Goodman D, et al. Vital signs: Pregnancy-related deaths, United States, 2011–2015, and strategies for prevention, 13 states, 2013–2017. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2019;68:423–429. doi:10.15585/mmwr.mm6818e1

  9. Kaiser Family Foundation. Abortion in later pregnancy.

  10. Lotto R, Smith LK, Armstrong N. Clinicians' perspectives of parental decision-making following diagnosis of a severe congenital anomaly: A qualitative studyBMJ Open. 2017;7(5):e014716. doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2016-014716

By Dawn Stacey, PhD, LMHC
Dawn Stacey, PhD, LMHC, is a published author, college professor, and mental health consultant with over 15 years of counseling experience.