Study Casts Doubt on Pro-Abortion Talking Point

Abortion is rarely used to space children, contra advocate claims

A Planned Parenthood in St. Louis / Getty Images
May 15, 2021

Researchers who reviewed data on millions of pregnant women threw cold water on the pro-abortion talking point that women use the procedure for family planning.

A study published in the peer-reviewed Journal of Primary Care and Community Health found that just 1 percent of almost five million Medicaid-eligible women who have an abortion after having given birth once go on to give birth again. The findings cast doubt on the argument that abortion is often used in between births to further space young children. The Biden administration, following through on comments Joe Biden made during the campaign, has already freed up billions in dollars in taxpayer funding that can be used to fund abortion services. The funding primarily came from the American Rescue Plan, which passed without Hyde Amendment protections.

The use of abortion as a method of family planning has been cited by such authorities as the American Public Health Association, which listed child spacing as a reason for its support for taxpayer funding of abortion. "APHA considers the availability of safe, legal, and affordable abortion care to be essential for safeguarding maternal health, reducing maternal mortality and morbidity, and enabling healthy spacing of pregnancies," the association states. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists also listed "spacing" to justify its support for abortion. And a branch of the pro-abortion organization NARAL promoted a series of articles exploring how "abortion makes parenting possible."

But the study found that the data do not support the conclusion that women use abortion for child spacing.

Researchers looked at 17 states where Medicaid, the entitlement program designed to help low-income Americans, includes coverage of abortions through state taxpayer funding. The time frame was 1999 to 2014. Out of the 4,875,511 Medicaid-eligible women and girls, 50,012 followed a pattern of a live birth, then an abortion, then another live birth. "[Our] findings support the conclusion that it is quite uncommon for Medicaid eligible women to utilize abortion for the purpose of child spacing," the study states.

The study was commissioned by the Charlotte Lozier Institute, the research arm of the pro-life Susan B. Anthony List. Its authors said that the argument for using abortion for family planning is not supported by the data. In fact, they said, the opposite appears to be true.

"The data is clear ... abortion is almost never used as a family planning tool," Stephen Billy, executive director of the Charlotte Lozier Institute, said.

"What pro-abortion researchers would like you to believe is that abortion is a happy circumstance that leads to a child-spaced family. What actually happens is that an abortion leads to more pregnancies, but those pregnancies lead to more abortions," said James Studnicki, the lead author of the study. "Abortion begets abortion."

The data also suggest that taxpayer-funded abortion has a disparate racial impact. Black women composed 19 percent of the study's population but made up 37 percent of the women with one or more abortions, according to the results. The study's authors said that expanded taxpayer funding for abortion would have negative impacts on minorities.

"If you expand taxpayer funding of abortion, more abortions will occur, and those abortions are going to be disproportionately affecting minority communities," Billy said.