Texas Abortion Patients Are Attempting to End Their Pregnancies at Higher Rates Than National Patients

Supermajority Education Fund

January 14, 2020

Abortion patients in Texas are attempting to end their pregnancies at a higher rate than national patients, according to a new study from the Texas Policy Evaluation Project. About 7 percent of abortion patients at Texas clinics attempted to end their pregnancies before going to a clinic compared to 2.2 percent of national patients, according to the study. Researchers surveyed more than 700 patients seeking abortion care in 2012 and 2014 and conducted interviews with 18 people who pursued self-managed abortion care to learn more about their decisions.

“Even though 7% means it’s not super common, there is a non-negligible number of abortion patients who have [attempted to end their pregnancy on their own],” Dr. Liza Fuentes, senior research scientist at Guttmacher Institute and researcher with TxPEP at the time of the study, told Supermajority News. “We should pay attention to what their circumstances are, and what their needs are so we can better serve them.”

In interviews with patients, researchers identified four main reasons why women attempted to self-manage their abortion, One reason patients reported was their inability to pay for a procedure or getting to a clinic (transport, time off work, etc.). Another was that the clinic closest to the patient’s home had closed, which exacerbated their economic worries. A third reason was that a trusted person had recommended self-managing the abortion. The final reason identified by researchers was that patients didn’t want to experience the societal stigma of abortion. 

As researchers wrote of one 20-year-old woman from Houston interviewed in the study who had already had an abortion, she “had borrowed money from a friend for a recent prior abortion, and was embarrassed to ask for financial help again saying, ‘I didn’t want this to be like a regular thing.'” 

For Dr. Fuentes, one thing this research made clear was that a number of Texans were experiencing a lack of dignity in this area of health care. While no patients interviewed used a method of self-managed abortion hat was “acutely dangerous to their health,” Fuentes said, their methods weren’t always effective either. “People had to go through an experience that isn’t a high-quality health care experience. Their dignity and a dignified health experience was compromised,” she said.

Nearly all patients interviewed said that in the future, they would recommend their friend go to a clinic for abortion care. Still, they also knew the obstacles they experienced (cost, transportation, clinic closures) weren’t going away, recognizing “that if people don’t have the resources, then doing it at home is the best choice,” Fuentes told Supermajority News.

The study highlighted the barriers patients face when attempting to access abortion in Texas and how their options shrink as outcomes become less effective. “People should not end up having to use non-effective methods,” Fuentes said.

Read the full study, published in BMC Women’s Health, here.