Saturday, October 29, 2016

A life course perspective to abortion in Finland

by Heini Väisänen

A thesis submitted to the Department of Social Policy of the London School of Economics and Political Science for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy


London, February 2016
Induced abortion is an understudied topic in part because of a lack of reliable data due to underreporting of abortion in surveys. The debate about whether teen pregnancies push women into socioeconomic disadvantage would benefit from longer follow-up periods and reliable data. This thesis studies which socio-demographic characteristics are associated with the likelihood of abortion, provides more precise estimates than previous studies on the socioeconomic risk factors of repeat abortion, and examines socioeconomic outcomes of women with different teen pregnancy histories. I use register data over the reproductive life span of Finnish women born in 1955–59, 1965–69 and 1975–79 (N=274,908). There is no underreporting of abortion in these data. The thesis consists of four sub-studies. The first examined the socioeconomic gradient in the risk of first abortion using event-history analysis. Low education was associated with higher risk of abortion and the gap increased over time. Selection into education and varying access to family planning services were the likely mechanisms. The second study found an educational gradient in the likelihood of repeat abortion, which has become more common over time, indicating a need of an intervention. The third sub-study examined the association between the timing of abortion and union dissolution using multi-process modelling. There were correlated unobserved characteristics associated with both unstable relationships and a higher likelihood of an abortion. Finally, I compared socioeconomic outcomes of women who had a birth, an abortion, or no pregnancy in adolescence. Results using the Karlson-Holm-Breen mediation method showed teen abortion did not mediate the relationship between parental and own socioeconomic position but teen birth did through accumulation of disadvantage. Overall the results show there is a group of women who do not benefit from contraceptive services as much as others. These findings are of importance, as reliable information on abortion is not typically available.

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