To present a nuanced and critical analysis of unmet need for abortion, including its
conceptualization and utility for the abortion rights movement.
We conducted 30 in-depth interviews with stakeholders in abortion access in the US,
including people working in direct service, research, advocacy, abortion funds, reproductive
justice organizations, and philanthropy.
Stakeholders conceptualized unmet need for abortion in two ways: outcome-based unmet
need, with need defined as obtaining an abortion; and process-based unmet need, in
which need is additionally defined in terms of the experience of getting an abortion,
including navigation of obstacles, preferences in method and setting, and quality
of care. Stakeholders identified potential benefits and harms of using unmet need
for abortion as a tool to frame and measure problems with abortion access. As a tool,
unmet need for abortion could draw necessary attention to crises in abortion access.
However, benefits were counterbalanced by concerns — that the tool could be misused,
the limits of quantification are too costly, and it would further disconnect abortion
from the broader fight for reproductive justice.
Unmet need for abortion is a complex concept that has potential benefits and harms
as a tool to document and improve abortion access.