Recession Linked to Rise in Abortions

Wednesday, 22 Apr 2009 08:08 AM

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NEW YORK -- The pregnancy was unexpected, and for one 32-year-old single mother in Syracuse, New York, the ailing economy became a factor in her decision to have an abortion.

"More so now that we are in a recession ... I felt I had to go through with the procedure because I cannot afford another child," said the woman, a registered nurse who spoke on condition of anonymity because she was worried about job security.

"People say, 'You're a nurse, you'll always have a job.' I think it's not as true as people think it is."

The recession may be a factor influencing more Americans to opt out of parenthood with abortions and vasectomies, although there is no data available yet to suggest a trend

Even so, there is some anecdotal evidence that would-be parents are factoring the rough economic times into the most personal of reproductive choices, some experts said.

In 2005, the last year for which data is available, the U.S. abortion rate fell to the lowest level since 1974, according to the Guttmacher Institute in New York, a nonprofit group focusing on reproductive issues.

But at the National Abortion Federation, a hotline for women seeking abortion information has been "ringing off the hook," according to the group's president, Vicki Saporta.

"We are currently getting more calls from women who report that they or their partner have recently lost their job, and we are also hearing from more women facing eviction," she said.

One recent inquiry came from a 24-year-old married woman in Colorado who was evicted after her landlord went into foreclosure. Another came from a 32-year-old pregnant mother in Virginia who had lost her job and health insurance.

"As more and more women and families are struggling due to the crisis, it's affecting more than just low-income families. Now more middle-class and working class families are facing the types problems that we've heard from low-income women," Saporta said.

As with many other nonprofits, abortion assistance groups are being inundated with requests for aid just as funding is drying up.

In the first quarter of 2009, the New York Abortion Assistance Fund increased funding for abortions 60 percent from year-ago levels, and the number of women receiving assistance more than doubled.

The reach of the recession may stretch beyond women's reproductive decisions to those of men.

Lawrence Ross, a urologist and former president of the American Urological Association, said he and his colleagues have noticed a roughly 50 percent increase in vasectomies in the past four to six months, which he attributes in part to the ailing economy.

About half a million men opt for vasectomies in the United States each year, a number which has remained flat over the years, Ross said.

"Many of them are afraid that they are going to lose their jobs and their health insurance. So while they are covered, a lot more patients, it pushed them over the edge to get it done more quickly," he said.

"A lot of them are saying that we've decided to limit our family, the costs of education and raising kids is so high."

At the same time, urologists have seen a drop in the number of men seeking vasectomy reversals.

While a vasectomy is a relatively simple procedure and typically costs between $1,000 to $1,500, a reversal costs roughly ten times as much.

© Thomson Reuters 2009 All rights reserved

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