to 1982 and then increased in 1988.
Following trends in unwanted pregnancies, however, reveals more dramatic changes. Although births from unwanted pregnancies among all ever-married women showed a slight increase between 1982 and 1988 (increasing from about 8 to 10 percent), births among women below poverty in this group registered much steeper increases (rising from about 12 to 21 percent). This means that by 1988 one of every five births to ever-married women below the poverty level was the result of an unwanted pregnancy—a level approaching the 1973 level of one in four, with most of the progress in the interim having effectively been erased. For black women below poverty, the trend is more pronounced. In 1973, 44 percent of births among this group resulted from an unwanted pregnancy; by 1982, this percentage had dropped to 21 percent. By 1988, however, this number was sharply up again, to 35 percent; thus, in 1988, about one birth in three to ever-married black women below poverty was due to an unwanted pregnancy.
As noted above, these figures exclude data for never-married women, who are known to have very high proportions of births that were either mistimed or unwanted at conception (see Figure 2-7). Accordingly, it is reasonable to believe that the proportion of births unwanted at the time of conception among all women below poverty is probably even higher than the levels noted in the preceding paragraph, which is addressed only to those below poverty who have ever been married.
Reflecting the high proportion of pregnancies that are unintended, U.S. abortion rates are also high. That is, the nation's high abortion rate can be viewed as reflecting high levels of unintended pregnancies. More than a million and a half abortions occurred in the United States every year during the 1980s; in both 1991 and 1992, the total number was about 1.5 million (Figure 2-8). As already shown in Figure 2-2, over half of all unintended pregnancies end in abortion.
Among women experiencing unintended pregnancies, marital status has a strong effect on the proportion obtaining an abortion (Table 2-2). Indeed, the proportion of unintended pregnancies terminated by abortion ranges from 75 percent among never-married women to 53 percent among formerly married women and 26 percent among currently married women. Whether the pregnancy was unwanted or mistimed does not affect the proportion of pregnancies ending