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Family Planning and Abortion

Only a small minority thinks that providing family planning services leads to an increase in abortions, while a slight majority believes Family Planning reduces abortions, for most, the terms 'family planning' or 'birth control' do not imply abortion. The public is divided about whether the US should fund abortions as part of family planning or should fund international family planning organizations that use non-US money to fund abortions.

Only a small minority thinks that an increase of family planning services in a developing country is likely to lead to an increase in abortions there. In September 1998 Belden and Russonello asked: "If family planning were made widely available in a country where it had not been, would you expect the number of abortions to fall, or to rise, or would having family planning widely available make no impact on abortion rates?" Only 15% said they would expect the number of abortions to rise while a slight majority of 52% said they expected aborions would go down and 27% thought it would make no difference. [1]

Apparently some Americans have some concern about whether US-sponsored family planning programs might include abortion because, as discussed in the section Foreign Aid and Family Planning, when it was spelled out explicitly that such programs do not include abortion this resulted in a higher level of support for aid for family planning than when this was not specified.

However, most Americans do not make a link between family planning and abortion in their minds. The September 1998 Belden and Russonello poll asked respondents in open-ended questions what came to mind when they heard the terms "family planning" and "birth control." In both cases, only very small minorities volunteered that these terms included abortion. When asked, "Can you tell me what you think the term 'family planning' means? What services does it include?" 48% named behavioral concerns such as "reducing unwanted pregnancy" and "control over number of children conceived and born." Twenty-nine percent named education, 16% talked about social services like prenatal care, while 15% mentioned methods-and only 7% named abortion. A separate half-sample was asked the same question about the term 'birth control.' In this case, most-71%--mentioned methods such as the use of contraceptives, but abortion was still named by only 6%, while 42% mentioned contraceptives. Twenty-five percent spoke of education; 24% of behavioral concerns; and 9% of social services. [2]

Most significant, in a follow-up question, only 33% said that when they heard the term 'birth control' they thought it included abortion; 66% said they did not. [3]

Americans are divided on whether the US should fund the performance of abortions abroad, or fund international organizations that perform abortions with non-US resources. When asked whether they would favor "US aid programs contributing the funding" of "voluntary, safe abortion as part of reproductive health care in developing countries that request it," 50% favored this and 46% opposed it (Belden and Russonello, September 1998). [4] Very similarly, in the same study a bare majority (51%) disapproved when told that "Congress has voted to prevent the US from funding family planning services in health organizations overseas, if those organizations also happen to perform abortions with other, non-US funding," while 45% approved of Congress' action. [5]



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