Recession Leads to More Abortions and Vasectomies

We’ve already seen some examples of how the recession might affect adoption rates. ABC News and CNN recently examined how the recession is affecting abortion rates and birth control.

The stories are upsetting and heartwrenching. One woman, whose boyfriend lost his job, walked to the clinic to save money on bus fare. Her pregnancy was planned, but because of their financial strain the couple can’t afford the child. From the ABC News article:

"This was a desired pregnancy — she’d been getting prenatal care — but they re-evaluated expenses and decided not to continue," said Dr. Pratima Gupta. "When I was doing the options counseling, she interrupted me halfway through, crying, and said, `Dr. Gupta, I just walked here for an hour. I’m sure of my decision.’"

The evidence of a rise is mostly anecdotal. Neither Planned Parenthood, governmental agencies, nor private agencies have up-to-date national abortion figures. According to Stephanie Poggi of National Network of Abortion Funds, calls to their helpline “have nearly quadrupled from a year ago.” Some evidence of a trend exists, though, “Abortions at Planned Parenthood’s St. Louis-area clinics were up nearly 7 percent in the second half of 2008 from a year earlier — ending a stretch in which the numbers were dwindling.”

That abortions cost money is obviously an obstacle; many women have to postpone their abortions to raise money to pay for them. This leads to riskier, more expensive abortions, placing women in a terrible double-bind: they have to raise money to afford to abort the children they can’t afford to have.

Fortunately there are organizations that help women pay for abortions. The National Network of Abortion Funds (NNAF) helps women find local funds that might subsidize their abortions.

Families are being smarter about contraception. According to CNN, the rate of vasectomies has risen since November, when the economic crisis worsened. Doctors at a the Cleveland Clinic have seen a 50% increase. Most are getting the operations because they can’t afford children, nor can they afford the cost of contraceptives.

Somewhat humorously, Oregon Urology recently ran advertisements trying to capitalize on the uptick in vasectomies by offering deals on the procedures, saying it’s better to recover during the March Madness basketball tournaments than during a Desperate Housewives marathon. They call the promotion “Vas Madness.”
You can hear their radio spot here.

There’s also an interesting chart on CNN’s website demonstrating U.S. fertility rates from 1917-2007. You can see large drops during every economic crisis.

As sad as this news can be, it’s at least a small comfort that people are choosing to be more responsible about their reproductive choices.

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  • invalid-0

    I think these people are making good decisions. Why increase your suffering or cause the suffering of others?–especially when you know you’re going to keep having sex.

  • invalid-0

    How sad that a couple who really wanted to have a baby had to terminate because of economic changes. My heart goes out to this couple and many couples who have to make difficult choices in all areas of their lives because of the economic devestation many people face.

    So many factors impact the decisions of us moral agents. May we be continually be greatful for that agency, and may that agency always be protected.

  • jalan-washington

    Dear Joe, although I applaud you on reflecting on this trend, there are serious limitations to many of your arguments (such as "families are being more smart about their contraception" and "people are choosing to be more responsible about their reproductive choices.").


    Your statement that the rise in vasectomies and abortions show that "families are being more responsible about their contraception" seems a bit premature – couldn’t these men be single who just want this procedure for their own piece of mind, you mention nothing about the rates of tubal ligation of women? And your argument about responsibility seems unsubstantiated without information about prevention methods for women – what about men and women who still have limited access to any form of health care, are they less responsible (no)? If you had said something like health care professionals are making long-term birth control for women and vasectomies for men more available (ie, affordable and accessible) and patients are seeking these methods out at a higher rate I would be more likely to agree. If you had said something like patients of all backgrounds are seeking contraceptive options at a higher rate and are having lower failure rates due to more consistent use, I would again be more likely to agree.


    However, your focus on abortion which is not a preventative method of birth control is both faulty and costly. Vasectomies prevent pregnancy while terminations end pregnancy – therefore can you really compare the two? Additionally, there are several important areas that you do not discuss: 1. You do not define abortion – are you referring to surgical or medical procedures? 2. Although you discuss the financial burden on the individual, you do not address the high cost of termination procedures on the health care system. A rise in the number of abortions puts even more financial burden on already stressed assistance-organizations such as NAF and PP. A rise in terminations without greater utilization of cost-effective prevention methods is as President Obama has stated in terms of other costly endeavors "unsustainable." I would argue that this in fact isn’t collectively "responsible" and needs to be addressed by patients, patient advocates, teachers, health care workers, etc . . . . Terminations are one of many options that need to be understood by and readily available to all women who need them as are vasectomies for men. I would say that more vasectomies and more long-term contraceptive use would be more along the lines of what we need. Just some thoughts. Cheers on expanding the dialogue.

  • invalid-0

    This is what is so wrong with this country. Its all “me me me.” We are fine with it as long as it does not interfere with our plans. Abortions are selfish and I am going to say it…murder. If you do not want to have kids do not have sex. If you do than be prepared to have kids even if you do not want to. End of story. Its easy. You cannot have your cake and eat it two.

  • invalid-0

    This is what is so wrong with this country. Its all “me me me.”

    The last time I heard someone say this, it was said by a Communist.

    Abortions are selfish and I am going to say it…murder.

    Thank you for sharing your personal opinion on abortions. I’ll share with you an opinion of my own: The Mets are evil, and the Red Sox rule!

    If you do not want to have kids do not have sex.

    Just like if you do not want to be in a car accident, do not get into a car?

    If you do than be prepared to have kids even if you do not want to. End of story. Its easy. You cannot have your cake and eat it two [sic].

    Um… yes I can, actually. I have had, and will have sex without being prepared to have kids, and there’s nothing you can do about it. You Commie pinko scum. God bless the U.S., and our freedom.

  • invalid-0

    If you do not want to have kids do not have sex.


    Well, lemme just run this one by the Better Half. I’ll letcha know his response.

    As for me: Frack that noise!