By The Numbers: Why Most U.S. Women Struggle To Afford Abortion

Most women who have abortions in the United States struggle to pay for them, and many have to rely on help from others to cover the cost, according to a new report from the Guttmacher Institute. Even the women who have health insurance overwhelmingly end up paying for the total cost of the procedure out of pocket, either because their plan refuses to cover it, they falsely assume their plan will refuse to cover it, or they want the additional anonymity of paying in cash.

Since abortion procedures can range from around $300 dollars to more than $3,000 dollars, raising enough money to pay out-of-pocket represents a significant financial strain for the women who need this type of reproductive service. By the numbers, here’s a snapshot of what’s it like to pay for an abortion — the reality that’s forcing most U.S. women to struggle to scrape together the money they need to pay for their reproductive health care:

  • $470: Average full price of a first-trimester abortion in 2009, the most recent year with available data.
  • $382: Average amount that the women participating in Guttmacher’s study ended up paying clinics to get an abortion. However, that figure includes the 21 percent of abortion patients who don’t pay any out-of-pocket costs, which skews it downward. When the women without any out-of-pocket costs are excluded, the average amount paid for an abortion is $485.
  • 46: Percentage of insured women who didn’t try to get coverage for their abortion because they believed their health plan wouldn’t cover it. Sometimes they were right, and their insurance provider didn’t offer any abortion coverage — and, since most states have enacted abortion bans for their Medicaid programs, that’s particularly true for the low-income women on public insurance — but other times women simply assumed abortion care must not be covered. An additional 10 percent of insured women opted not to use their insurance in favor of increased anonymity.
  • 50: Percentage of respondents who had to get outside help to pay for their abortion because they couldn’t afford it on their own. Within that group, about 60 percent of women relied on help from a male partner. About 20 percent sought a discount from the clinic, and another 20 percent asked for donations from an abortion fund or from other family members.
  • 86: Percentage of woman who said they felt “grateful” after receiving financial help from an abortion fund. Guttmacher found that “substantial minorities” of the women who obtained money from abortion funds and family members characterized the experience as “life saving.” A few women reported they felt negative emotions such as “resentful,” “humiliating” or “angry” after being forced to seek out money from external sources.
  • $198: Average amount of lost wages that women reported as a result of getting an abortion. One quarter of the study’s participants said they ended up losing wages because they had to take time off to travel to have their abortion. Two-thirds of study participants had to cover an average for $44 in transportation costs, and one in 10 paid an average of $57 in childcare expenses. That’s consistent with other research that’s found that the state-level restrictions on abortion often drive up these hidden costs of abortion for women.
  • 42: Percentage of women who have abortions whose income levels fall below the federal poverty line, according to Guttmacher’s previous research. Seven out of ten women who have had an abortion would have preferred to have the procedure sooner, but many of them were forced to delay because they needed more time to raise the money for it.

“The findings make clear that abortion can pose a major financial burden for women seeking these services and is not a decision they take lightly,” Rachel Jones, a senior researcher at the Guttmacher Institute, explained in a press release from the organization. “Many of these women are poor or low-income, and have to come up with several hundred dollars to pay for the procedure.” That essentially means that low-income women are being priced out of their reproductive rights — particularly as anti-choice lawmakers across the country work to drive up the cost of abortion even further to ensure women won’t be able to afford it.