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Most pregnancy terminations in the United States are performed in the first trimester, before 12 weeks of pregnancy. The longer a pregnancy continues, the greater the risk of side effects from abortions including cervical damage, infection, and incomplete abortion. Along with risks for the mother, most women who decide on an abortion agree that it is best to have the procedure done as early as possible. A new study by the Guttmacher Institute examined what makes women get later abortions.

The researchers surveyed 9,493 women who had abortions at 95 hospitals across the United States, in the year 2008. They were especially interested in those women who had an abortion after 13 weeks of pregnancy. The women who had later abortions were divided in 13-15 week and post-16 week groups. All participants were asked questions about poverty, race, marital status, and age as well as deeper queries into the women's backgrounds, like domestic violence, health insurance, and important life events.

Guttmacher senior research associate Rachel Jones told the press: "We kept seeing all these discussions of second-trimester abortions and attempts to limit abortions by trimester. It dawned on us that we didn't know anything about this population." Here is what the researchers came up with:

  • Ten percent of the participants had abortions after the first trimester of pregnancy. Those women were more likely to be poor, black and less education than those who had earlier abortions.
  • Women having second-trimester abortions were more likely to lack a high school diploma and obviously connected to have an income under the poverty line.
  • Teenagers were more likely to have second-trimester abortions.
  • Rape and domestic violence made later abortion more likely, and the same was true for women who experienced job loss or other sudden life changes.
  • Wealthier women and those with health insurance were more likely to get abortions after 16 weeks of pregnancy, probably in part due to the cost of these procedures.
  • Most women who had later abortions said they would have preferred to have the procedure carried out earlier.

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