Objective: To study the impact of sociodemographic, financial, and reproductive factors and of characteristics related to intimate relationships on the decisions of women in different age groups about whether or not to continue an unintended pregnancy.
Design: Cross sectional population based survey.
Setting: Telephone interview survey between September 2000 and January 2001 in France. From a representative sample (n=14 704) of 18 to 44 year old women, those who in the past five years had an abortion or whose last pregnancy was unintended were oversampled (sampling fraction=100%, n=1034) while the other women were randomly selected (sampling fraction =19%, n=1829). Altogether, 2863 women answered the questionnaire.
Participants: All women whose last pregnancy was unintended and ended in induced abortion or birth (n=645).
Main results: Factors associated with the abortion decision varied strongly according to age. Younger women’s abortion decisions were mainly related to being a student and being single. Wanting to stop childbearing when the desired number of children was achieved best explained the decision to have an abortion among 25 to 34 year old women. Older women chose abortion especially when childbearing did not fit their work situation or when the relationship with the partner was unstable. A high level of education of a woman and her partner increased the likelihood of abortion, especially among young women.
Conclusions: The impact of socioeconomic and relationship factors on the decision to have an abortion is not the same at different stages in life, and refers to the social representations and perceptions of what good conditions are for being a mother.
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Funding: the COCON survey was carried out with the financial support of Wyeth-Lederlé Laboratory, and this study was supported by a grant from INSERM.
Conflicts of interest: none.