Background on Abortion

How common is abortion?

An estimated 30% of U.S. women will have an abortion by age 45. Nationally, the abortion rate has declined since 1990.1 Changes in abortion rates are influenced by a number of factors, including changes in sexual activity, the economy, contraceptive use, and abortion access.

The abortion rate in Illinois has followed a similar pattern—declining from 1995 through 2005, increasing slightly around 2008, then decreasing through 2011.

Seeking abortion

Individuals seek abortion for a range of reasons and often cite more than one, reflecting the complexity of people's lives and experiences.2-4 Some frequently discussed reasons include:

  • Having a child would make it difficult to pursue education, work, or care for other dependent children or family.
  • Inability to financially support a child right now.
  • Not ready to be a parent.
  • Relationship problems or the person does not want to parent alone. 
  • The person has reached their desired family size. 

Very few individuals cite their parents’ or partners’ desire for them to have an abortion as the most important reason.3 Abortion can also be sought when the pregnancy is a result of sexual assault, and for medical reasons—including ectopic pregnancies, fetal abnormalities, or in cases where pregnancy threatens the health or life of the pregnant person. While it is important to understand the many reasons someone might choose an abortion, it is also important to recognize each person's circumstance and experiences are different. 

Who seeks abortion?

The majority of individuals obtaining abortions are in their 20s.5 More than half of the Illinois residents who obtained abortions were aged 20 to 29.6 Nationally, 36% of those seeking abortion are non-Hispanic whites , 30% are non-Hispanic black, 25% are Hispanic and 9% are non-Hispanic and of other races. The overwhelming majority of individuals having abortions are unmarried, but almost half have been in a relationship for a year or longer with the partner of the pregnancy. Most individuals having abortions already have at least one child, and one-third have two or more. Nearly half of individuals having abortions are poor. In 2008, one-third of those seeking abortion lacked health insurance, less than one-third had private health insurance, 31% were covered by Medicaid and 5% had some other type of health insurance.5