Many reproductive health services providers say they have seen an uptick in calls from women with unintended pregnancies who say they cannot afford a child, the Chicago Tribune reports. At the same time, economic worries have left some women "struggling to afford contraception" and, "in some cases, they are risking their physical and emotional health by delaying abortion procedures for weeks as they seek a way to pay the cost," according to the Tribune. Experts say that is it too soon to know if the poor economy ultimately will reverse downward trends in abortion rates, and government and private data on abortion statistics for 2008 and 2009 have not yet been compiled. However, interviews with women and reproductive services providers in the Chicago area and throughout the U.S. suggest that economic concerns increasingly are affecting women's reproductive health decisions, according to the Tribune.
Planned Parenthood of Illinois in January performed the highest number of abortions in its history, and calls to The Cradle, a private adoption agency in Evanston, Ill., have increased over the last two months, according to the organizations. Toni Bond Leonard, board president of the National Network of Abortion Funds, said that calls to state and local affiliates from women in need of financial assistance are up as much as 100% in recent months. "The demand for funding has increased because of the economic downturn, because women are losing their jobs or the partners have lost their jobs and they've lost their health insurance," she said, adding, "Or their bills are such that they don't have any additional income." A recent report by the network found that more than 75% of calls in November and December 2008 came from women who were at least four months' pregnant. Gaylon Alcaraz, executive director of the Chicago Abortion Fund, said, "No woman purposely waits until her second trimester to have an abortion procedure. They are trying to raise money, get resources, get things together."
Antiabortion-rights and faith-based organizations also report an increase in calls. Angie Weszely, president of Caris Pregnancy Counseling and Resources, which operates antiabortion crisis pregnancy centers, said, "We definitely have seen more women coming to our clinics," adding that "[d]efinitely the economy is playing into it. We know it is a factor."
Meanwhile, Planned Parenthood clinics in Illinois and other states report a rise in clients seeking contraception services. The economy also is forcing some women to limit their use of birth control to save money, which health professionals say is a "troubling trend" that increases the risk of unintended pregnancy, the Tribune reports. Shanie Scott, legislative director of Planned Parenthood Shasta-Diablo in California, said the center is seeing more unemployed clients who lack health insurance, as well as a rise in women seeking longer-acting contraception, such as Depo-Provera, to avoid more frequent birth control costs. Shjavon Griffin, manager of Planned Parenthood's Englewood Health Center in Chicago, said some women who typically buy several months of birth control pills now only purchase a one-month supply (Shelton, Chicago Tribune, 3/10).
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