Monday, August 20, 2007

How Many?

In the early days after my loss, I joined an online support group for women who have ended a pregnancy for medical reasons. When I joined it the site was a little over a year old, and had perhaps a couple hundred members. Recently there was a sad milestone there when the 600th member joined.

The fact the site counts its members got me thinking about abortion statistics for people like me. It has always bothered me that nobody seems interested in quantifying how many people are making devastating choices regarding wanted pregnancies. If people generally don't want to talk about infertility and pregnancy loss, then the thing they most don't want to talk about within that arena of topics is termination for medical reasons. People get so, so judgy and uncomfortable about everything to do with this subject.

Yet even without any official stats, my experience online has shown me that what I initially thought was a heartbreaking fluke of an experience must not be nearly as uncommon as I thought. The stories I've heard are all different, yet eerily the same. We were overjoyed at the pregnancy, but then a grave problem was discovered. And we all did what we thought was best to deal with that unfixable tragedy after that. Second trimester procedures are unfairly represented as the last refuge of disorganized floozies who get their pregnancy dates mixed up. ("Whoops! It's December and I forgot to get that abortion two months ago!") This characterization is a huge injustice to the women caught in the crisis of trying to decide what to do when severe health issues come to light in the second trimester.

I for one would like the choice I made to be counted for what it is. And I would like to know how many other people went through that same choice. I think that number would be a very powerful picture of the true state of pregnancy in the US today. Because if six hundred people have found their way to a support website via word of mouth in the past couple years, I have to guess that this is just the tip of the iceberg, in terms of what is happening in both the US and world at large. If abortion numbers for poor prenatal diagnoses and maternal health problems were available, then people might begin to apply the risk of this to themselves. They might start talking about it in real terms, rather than cartoonish black and white scenarios.

So, back to the original question: How many of us are there who have done this? Today all I can do is make a really rough guess. The most commonly cited stat for all types of abortions occurring in the US is 1.3 million per year. Of those, I have seen statistics that report around six percent of abortions are due to a medical factor either in the mother or baby.

Six percent of 1.3 million is 78,000. Seventy-eight thousand times a year a woman opts to end a pregnancy due to some sort of medical reason. Holy crap, that's a ton of women! Why are people not talking about this more?

Has anyone else seem stats on anything related to this? If so, I'd love to see them ...


Sara said...

I have no idea, but I'd be interested to know as well. It's certainly more than it seems - I don't remember this even being on my radar before it happened to me. (I'm over at AHC, too, BTW. Hi!)

meg said...

Wabi, I am on this list too. My baby had a fatal kidney problem, and while I was waiting to go in for the termination, she died in utero. She died at 20 weeks. Neither one of us is alone in this--you are right, 600 is the tip of the iceberg.