Women cite relationships as key factor in decision to have abortion

Healthcare providers are increasingly recognizing that male partners have considerable influence on women’s reproductive health decisions and outcomes. For instance, previous research showed that male partners can affect women’s choices regarding contraceptive use and pregnancy. However, one area that remains less explored is male partners’ influence on women’s decisions regarding abortion. In an effort to shed light on this issue, new research from the UCSF Bixby Center provides an in-depth look at the ways women describe their partners influence in their decisions regarding abortion.

Using data from a long-term study among women seeking abortion in the U.S., the researchers found that nearly one-third of women cited their partners as a factor in their decision to have an abortion. The three most common partner-related reasons were:

  • Poor relationships.
  • Partners unable or unwilling to support a child.
  • Undesirable partner characteristics for parenting.

Additionally, 8% of women sought an abortion because they had abusive partners. Abuse included being hit, threatened, mentally harassed or raped. Healthcare providers should be aware of the possibility of violence among women seeking abortion. Reproductive healthcare visits are an important time to identify women experiencing partner violence and offer information about safety, referrals to counseling and other support services.

These findings illustrate that women are clearly reflecting on whether their relationships would support or undermine their goals for rearing a child. They also bolster previous research showing that women's reasons for seeking abortion are complex and interrelated, and provide key recommendations for healthcare providers to support women when making reproductive decisions.