In contrast to a spontaneous abortion, an elective abortion involves a decision to ter­minate a pregnancy by using medical procedures. Each year, nearly half of all pregnan­cies of women in the United States are unplanned. Women who are 18 to 24 years old, poor, and cohabiting have two to three times the national rate (Finer & Zolna, 2011). Many of the unplanned pregnancies become welcome and wanted. However, about 4 in 10 of these unplanned pregnancies are terminated by abortion. In 2008, 1.2 million women had an abortion, and an estimated 33% of women in the United States will have had an abortion by age 45 (Guttmacher Institute, 2011a).

Recent statistics find that women in their 20s have more than half of all abortions, and teenagers have 18% of abortions. About 61% of women having abortions each year have one or more children. Among women having an abortion, 37% identify themselves as Protestant and 28% as Catholic (Guttmacher Institute, 2011a).