Recession Leads to More Abortions and Vasectomies

Joe Veix

When the recession hit in November, abortion and vasectomy rates rose significantly.

We’ve already seen some examples of how the recession might affect adoption rates. ABC News and CNN recently examined how the recession is affecting abortion rates and birth control.

The stories are upsetting and heartwrenching. One woman, whose boyfriend lost his job, walked to the clinic to save money on bus fare. Her pregnancy was planned, but because of their financial strain the couple can’t afford the child. From the ABC News article:

"This was a desired pregnancy — she’d been getting prenatal care — but they re-evaluated expenses and decided not to continue," said Dr. Pratima Gupta. "When I was doing the options counseling, she interrupted me halfway through, crying, and said, `Dr. Gupta, I just walked here for an hour. I’m sure of my decision.’"

The evidence of a rise is mostly anecdotal. Neither Planned Parenthood, governmental agencies, nor private agencies have up-to-date national abortion figures. According to Stephanie Poggi of National Network of Abortion Funds, calls to their helpline “have nearly quadrupled from a year ago.” Some evidence of a trend exists, though, “Abortions at Planned Parenthood’s St. Louis-area clinics were up nearly 7 percent in the second half of 2008 from a year earlier — ending a stretch in which the numbers were dwindling.”

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That abortions cost money is obviously an obstacle; many women have to postpone their abortions to raise money to pay for them. This leads to riskier, more expensive abortions, placing women in a terrible double-bind: they have to raise money to afford to abort the children they can’t afford to have.

Fortunately there are organizations that help women pay for abortions. The National Network of Abortion Funds (NNAF) helps women find local funds that might subsidize their abortions.

Families are being smarter about contraception. According to CNN, the rate of vasectomies has risen since November, when the economic crisis worsened. Doctors at a the Cleveland Clinic have seen a 50% increase. Most are getting the operations because they can’t afford children, nor can they afford the cost of contraceptives.

Somewhat humorously, Oregon Urology recently ran advertisements trying to capitalize on the uptick in vasectomies by offering deals on the procedures, saying it’s better to recover during the March Madness basketball tournaments than during a Desperate Housewives marathon. They call the promotion “Vas Madness.”
You can hear their radio spot here.

There’s also an interesting chart on CNN’s website demonstrating U.S. fertility rates from 1917-2007. You can see large drops during every economic crisis.

As sad as this news can be, it’s at least a small comfort that people are choosing to be more responsible about their reproductive choices.

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