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Women's Health

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Many pregnant women support abortion availability, but half would consider only a first-trimester procedure

Many pregnant women receiving prenatal care in the San Francisco Bay area support abortion availability. However, half would consider an abortion only in the first trimester, according to a study supported in part by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (HS10214 and HS10856).

Researchers interviewed 1,082 demographically diverse pregnant women (nearly half were 35 years or older) in the San Francisco Bay area, who were enrolled in prenatal care at less than 20 weeks' gestation. About 25 percent had undergone expanded serum screening, 15 percent had an amniocentesis performed in the second trimester, and 6 percent had received chorionic villus sampling performed at 9 menstrual weeks to detect fetal chromosomal disorders.

Most women (92 percent) supported abortion availability. Half (50 percent) were willing to consider an abortion, but would do so only in the first trimester. Among pregnant women willing to consider an abortion in the first or second trimester, 84 percent would do so after rape or incest or if their life was endangered and 76 percent would if their fetus had Down syndrome. Pregnant women considering abortion were more likely to be white, older, have had a previous abortion, and to express distrust in the health care system. Women who would not consider abortion were more likely to have several children, be married or living with a partner, and express greater faith and fatalism about their pregnancy outcome.

More details are in "Abortion attitudes of pregnant women in prenatal care," by Lee A. Learman, M.D., Ph.D., Eleanor A. Drey, M.D., Elena A. Gates, M.D., and others, in the June 2005 American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology 192, pp. 1939-1947, 2005.

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