August 23, 2013 — Each year, more than 4,000 U.S. women carry unwanted pregnancies to term after being denied abortions because they exceeded facilities' gestational age limits, according to a study in the American Journal of Public Health.
Because few abortion providers offer the procedure after the first trimester, women who are delayed already must travel long distances to obtain abortions. In addition, in many state legislatures, lawmakers have introduced or enacted measures to lower the upper gestational limit for abortion care to before fetal viability, the study noted.
Researchers led by Ushma Upadhyay of Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health at the University of California-San Francisco's Bixby Center for Global Reproductive Health used data from a Guttmacher Institute census of all abortion facilities in the U.S. and ANSIRH's ongoing Turnaway Study to assess factors influencing delays in seeking abortions and the outcomes for women who cannot obtain one.
The researchers compared women who visited a facility when their pregnancies were within the facility's gestational age limit and received an abortion with those who were just past the limit and were denied an abortion. Women in latter group are known as "turnaways."
Significant portions of women in both groups experienced multiple factors that delayed them in seeking the procedure, the study found.
Overall, raising money -- both for the procedure itself and for travel costs -- was the most common reason women cited for delaying abortion care. These factors "create a cycle of increasing cost and delay," the researchers wrote, noting that once women are past the first trimester, when the procedure becomes more costly, "raising the funds to pay for the abortion can lead to further delays."
Data source: Upadhyay et al., "Denial of Abortion Because of Provider Gestational Age Limits in the United States," American Journal of Public Health, 8/15.