“They're forcing people to have children that they can't afford”: A qualitative study of social support and capital among individuals receiving an abortion in Georgia

Document Type

Article (peer-reviewed)

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Abortion is common but highly stigmatized in the United States, and the overturning of Roe v. Wade severely restricted abortion access in many states across the nation. Data reveal that maternal morbidity and mortality are already increasing, and research suggests existing inequities in abortion access across racial/ethnic and socioeconomic groups will be exacerbated. Research has shown that social support (perceived and received aid from one's social network) and social capital (resources accessed through those social connections) can improve access to health services and decrease barriers to care. Given the escalating barriers to abortion, including longer travel distances, it is imperative to better understand the roles of social support and social capital within abortion access, especially for people living on lower incomes and people of color. Our team conducted in-depth interviews with post-abortion patients (n = 18) from an urban abortion clinic in Georgia in 2019 and 2020, shortly after a six-week gestational age abortion limit had been passed but before it was enacted. We examined how people described their social support and social capital – or lack thereof – when making decisions about their pregnancy and their ability to access abortion. We found that social support and social capital – economic support in particular – were key facilitators of both abortion access and parenting, but participants often experienced barriers to economic support within their social networks due to poverty, unstable partnerships, structural inequality, and abortion stigma. Women experienced constraints to their reproductive autonomy, wherein they had no alternatives but abortion. Our findings suggest that increased economic support and de-stigmatization of abortion are needed to improve reproductive autonomy. Our findings also indicate that restricting and outlawing abortion services is significantly detrimental to the well-being of pregnant people, their families and networks, and their communities by perpetuating cycles of poverty and deepening socioeconomic and racial/ethnic inequities.