Abby Johnson, a former Planned Parenthood employee who now leads a ministry helping abortion workers leave the industry, had two abortions and said hormonal birth control didn’t work. “We used various methods of birth control, Nuva Ring, Ortho Evra, different pills,” said Johnson via email. “I settled on the Depo Provera injection and got pregnant eight months after starting the method. I got my shot at the right time, did everything I was supposed to. But here I was, pregnant again.”
Johnson eventually went for an IUD, and while it was effective, she said it gave her frequent infections and may have affected her fertility when she and her husband decided to build their family. Even if she’d had a good experience with birth control, Johnson says, teaching women about their bodies and fertility at a young age is a better answer, not birth control.
It helps to understand the reasons why women return to the abortion center, even if the reasons are as many and varied as the women themselves. “When I walked into the room and uncovered myself for the procedure, I broke down,” writes one woman on myabortionmylife.org. “I asked God to forgive me for my sin. I didn’t want to abort my baby but I knew I had to. That was my second abortion within a few years. I wouldn’t wish a surgical or medical abortion to my worst enemy. I’ve been emotionally distraught, unattached to life.”
Hundreds of repeat-abortion stories like these dot the internet, most testifying to the pain, embarrassment, and sometimes remorse over the taking of life, even as women express pride for standing up for themselves. The women cite reasons for a second abortion that range from the tragic to the trivial, from a cancer diagnosis and fetal abnormalities to imagined fears of a jealous big brother. (You can find them at myabortionmylife.org, wetestify.org, projectvoice.org, and 1in3campaign.org, most set up by pro-abortion groups to give post-abortive women a chance to share anonymously.)
The stories and the statistics paint a picture of a patient who’s slightly different from the average first-timer. For one, she’s older. The likelihood of multiple abortions rises significantly with age, so while it’s less common for a 31-year-old to walk into an abortion center, chances are if she does, she’s coming for her second or third procedure. She’s also more likely to have attended college, though this doesn’t mean she’s learned about fertility or fetal development.
BUT MOST FIRST-TIMERS and repeat abortion patients have in common the absence of one thing: a wedding ring.
Roland Warren, president of Care Net, a pro-life organization that oversees 1,100 pregnancy centers, says the best way to make sense of the 45 to 50 percent repeat abortion statistic is to look at yet another data point—86 percent of all abortion patients are unmarried. Because these relationships are often tenuous, pulling in the expectant father is key, Warren says. The father, usually the first to be told about the pregnancy, is crucial in the woman’s decision, but he’s often absent from the conversation at the abortion center. Warren, who spent 12 years heading the National Fatherhood Initiative, says “guys can be a big social pressure for good.”