Online Program

An untold story: Abortion rates among black women of different socioeconomic positions

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Madina Agénor, ScD, MPH, Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Boston, MA
In the United States, abortion rates are higher among black women and women of low socioeconomic position (SEP) compared to white women and women of high SEP. Disparities in abortion can be explained by differences in unintended pregnancy, contraceptive use, access to sex education, and access to socioeconomic resources. 

Based on current data collection methods, it is impossible to determine abortion rates for black women by socioeconomic position or for any intersectional group of women across racial/ethnic and socioeconomic lines. Using a reproductive justice framework, I argue that without such data, we cannot truly know the reality of abortion prevalence in the United States. If we had these data, we could tailor programs pertaining to unintended pregnancy prevention and access to abortion towards specific communities of women, rather than designing ‘one-size-fits-all’ interventions.

My research suggests that the United States government should federally mandate data collection of abortion rates by race/ethnicity and socioeconomic position by all local clinics and submission of these data to a state agency and then to a national agency. Additionally, I recommend that these rates be presented by intersecting identities (e.g., race/ethnicity and SEP together, not just by race/ethnicity and SEP separately and that further research be conducted to understand the impact of common explanations of abortion (such as sex education and contraceptive use) on specific groups (e.g., black women of low SEP compared to black women of high SEP).

Learning Areas:

Advocacy for health and health education
Assessment of individual and community needs for health education
Public health administration or related administration
Public health or related education

Learning Objectives:
Analyze how abortion rates are reported in relation to race/ethnicity and socioeconomic position using a reproductive justice lens.

Keyword(s): Abortion, Reproductive Health

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am a social epidemiologist with doctoral and postdoctoral training in studying social inequalities in sexual and reproductive health in relation to gender, race/ethnicity, socioeconomic position, and sexual orientation. Additionally, I have conducted research on the social and policy determinants of abortion access among U.S. women of color.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.