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Induced abortion among women veterans: data from the ECUUN study

  • Author(s): Schwarz, EB
  • Sileanu, FE
  • Zhao, X
  • Mor, MK
  • Callegari, LS
  • Borrero, S
  • et al.
Abstract

© 2017 Objective We compared rates of induced abortion among women veterans receiving Veterans Affairs (VA) healthcare to rates in the general US population, as current policy prohibits VA provision of abortion counseling or services even when pregnancy endangers a veteran's life. Methods We analyzed data from 2298 women veterans younger than 45 years who completed a telephone-based, cross-sectional survey of randomly sampled English-speaking women from across the United States who had received VA healthcare. We compared lifetime, last-5-year and last-year rates of unintended pregnancy and abortion among participants to age-matched data from the National Survey of Family Growth. As few abortions were reported in the last year, we used multivariable logistic regression to examine associations between abortion in the last 5 years and age, race/ethnicity, income, education, religion, marital status, parity, geography, deployment history, housing instability, and past medical and mental health among VA patients. Results Women veterans were more likely than matched US women to report ever having an abortion [17.7%, 95% confidence interval (CI): 16.1%–19.3% vs. 15.2% of US women]. In the last 5 years, unintended pregnancy and abortion were reported by veterans at rates similar to US women. In multivariable models, VA patients were more likely to report abortion in the last 5 years if their annual income was less than $40,000 (adjusted odds ratio (OR) 2.95, 95% CI 1.30–6.70), they had experienced homelessness or housing instability (adjusted OR 1.91, 95% CI 1.01–3.62), they were single (adj. OR 2.46, 95% CI 1.23–4.91) and/or they had given birth (adjusted OR 2.29, 95% CI 1.19–4.40). Conclusion Women veterans face unintended pregnancy and seek abortion as often as the larger US population. Implications The Veterans Health Care Act, which prohibits provision of abortion services, increases vulnerable veterans’ out-of-pocket healthcare costs and limits veterans’ reproductive freedom.

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