Although repeat induced abortion is common, data concerning characteristics of women undergoing this procedure are lacking. We conducted this study to identify the characteristics, including history of physical abuse by a male partner and history of sexual abuse, of women who present for repeat induced abortion.
We surveyed a consecutive series of women presenting for initial or repeat pregnancy termination to a regional provider of abortion services for a wide geographic area in southwestern Ontario between August 1998 and May 1999. Self-reported demographic characteristics, attitudes and practices regarding contraception, history of relationship violence, history of sexual abuse or coercion, and related variables were assessed as potential correlates of repeat induced abortion. We used χ2 tests for linear trend to examine characteristics of women undergoing a first, second, or third or subsequent abortion. We analyzed significant correlates of repeat abortion using stepwise multivariate multinomial logistic regression to identify factors uniquely associated with repeat abortion.
Of the 1221 women approached, 1145 (93.8%) consented to participate. Data regarding first versus repeat abortion were available for 1127 women. A total of 68.2%, 23.1% and 8.7% of the women were seeking a first, second, or third or subsequent abortion respectively. Adjusted odds ratios for undergoing repeat versus a first abortion increased significantly with increased age (second abortion: 1.08, 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.04–1.09; third or subsequent abortion: 1.11, 95% CI 1.07–1.15), oral contraceptive use at the time of conception (second abortion: 2.17, 95% CI 1.52–3.09; third or subsequent abortion: 2.60, 95% CI 1.51–4.46), history of physical abuse by a male partner (second abortion: 2.04, 95% CI 1.39–3.01; third or subsequent abortion: 2.78, 95% CI 1.62–4.79), history of sexual abuse or violence (second abortion: 1.58, 95% CI 1.11–2.25; third or subsequent abortion: 2.53, 95% CI 1.50–4.28), history of sexually transmitted disease (second abortion: 1.50, 95% CI 0.98–2.29; third or subsequent abortion: 2.26, 95% CI 1.28–4.02) and being born outside Canada (second abortion: 1.83, 95% CI 1.19–2.79; third or subsequent abortion: 1.75, 95% CI 0.90–3.41).
Among other factors, a history of physical or sexual abuse was associated with repeat induced abortion. Presentation for repeat abortion may be an important indication to screen for a current or past history of relationship violence and sexual abuse.