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Am J Public Health. 2013 Oct;103(10):1772-9. doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2013.301339. Epub 2013 Aug 15.

Disparities in abortion rates: a public health approach.

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Christine Dehlendorf is with the Departments of Family and Community Medicine, Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences, and Epidemiology and Biostatistics at the University of California, San Francisco. Lisa H. Harris is with the Departments of Obstetrics and Gynecology and Women's Studies, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. Tracy A. Weitz is with Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health, Bixby Center for Global Reproductive Health, University of California, San Francisco.


Women of lower socioeconomic status and women of color in the United States have higher rates of abortion than women of higher socioeconomic status and White women. Opponents of abortion use these statistics to argue that abortion providers are exploiting women of color and low socioeconomic status, and thus, regulations are needed to protect women. This argument ignores the underlying causes of the disparities. As efforts to restrict abortion will have no effect on these underlying factors, and instead will only result in more women experiencing later abortions or having an unintended childbirth, they are likely to result in worsening health disparities. We provide a review of the causes of abortion disparities and argue for a multifaceted public health approach to address them.

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