Timing of steps and reasons for delays in obtaining abortions in the United States

Finer LB

Frohwirth LF

Dauphinee LA

Singh S

Moore AM

Oct 2006


We studied the steps in the process of obtaining abortions and women's reported delays in order to help understand difficulties in accessing abortion services.


In 2004, a structured survey was completed by 1209 abortion patients at 11 large providers, and in-depth interviews were conducted with 38 women at four sites.


The median time from the last menstrual period to suspecting pregnancy was 33 days; the median time from suspecting pregnancy to confirming the pregnancy was 4 days; the median time from confirming the pregnancy to deciding to have an abortion was 0 day; the median time from deciding to have an abortion to first attempting to obtain abortion services was 2 days; and the median time from first attempting to obtain abortion services to obtaining the abortion was 7 days. Minors took a week longer to suspect pregnancy than adults did. Fifty-eight percent of women reported that they would have liked to have had the abortion earlier. The most common reasons for delay were that it took a long time to make arrangements (59%), to decide (39%) and to find out about the pregnancy (36%). Poor women were about twice as likely to be delayed by difficulties in making arrangements.


Financial limitations and lack of knowledge about pregnancy may make it more difficult for some women to obtain early abortion.