How much of a change in children's family contexts could possibly be achieved by reducing the number of births derived from unintended pregnancies? To address this question, information on the relationship between maternal marital status and whether births resulted from unwanted or mistimed pregnancies (using data on births from the 1982 and 1988 NSFG) was applied to the estimated proportion of births to unmarried women in 1994. Births from unwanted and mistimed pregnancies figure differently in this estimation. Births from unwanted pregnancies, by definition, would simply not occur, whereas births that were mistimed at conception would occur, but would occur later—some in marriage and some not. Logit simulation was used to model this redistribution of mistimed pregnancies, as described in more detail in Appendix E.
The results of this simulation show that eliminating unintended pregnancy decreases dramatically the proportion of children who are born to unmarried women. Specifically, the proportion of all births in 1994 that were either to unmarried women or were the result of an unwanted pregnancy would decrease from 38 to 21 percent—a 45 percent reduction overall. The percentage of all births to teenage mothers would also decrease, given the disproportionate representation of teenagers in the pool of unmarried women giving birth, but the precise shape of the age redistribution was not calculated.
The complete elimination of all unintended fertility is an unrealistic goal. However, this statistical exercise adds to the evidence presented earlier in this chapter that an appreciable reduction in the number of unintended pregnancies would improve the well-being of future generations. The fact that other industrialized countries report fewer unintended pregnancies than the United States suggests that progress in the desired direction is a realistic, feasible goal.
The data and perspectives presented in this chapter demonstrate that unintended pregnancy has serious consequences. these consequences are not confined only to unintended pregnancies occurring to teenagers or unmarried women and couples; in fact, unintended pregnancy can carry serious consequences at all ages and life stages. First, unintended pregnancy often leads to abortion, a fact that underscores a point made at the outset of this report: reducing unintended pregnancy would dramatically decrease the incidence of abortion. Although it is quite clear that abortion has few if any long-term negative consequences on a woman's medical or psychological well-being, it is nonetheless true that resolving an unintended pregnancy by abortion may be an emotionally difficult experience for a woman and others close to her; in particular, abortion providers, women, and their partners as well may find that abortion poses difficult moral or ethical problems; and there continue to be