Many people think that women who have second-trimester abortions are “willfully irresponsible,” but most women in such a position face social challenges that make it tougher to secure an earlier abortion, according to a new study from the Guttmacher Institute.

The study revealed that women who receive second-trimester abortions are more likely to be teenagers and minorities; to not have a high school degree or health insurance; and to have experienced a “disruptive event” in the past year.

As Susan Schewel, executive director of the Women’s Medical Fund, told

“The women who call our help line are instead women who often are trying to be responsible, but their lives are so difficult. They have so many balls in the air, and more pressing financial needs — for example, housing. They just can’t manage everything.”

Many other women receive later-term abortions because they discover fetal anomalies or experience serious health problems.

Of course, the Guttmacher study has important implications for abortion availability:

The anti-choice movement’s attempts to cut off the supply of abortion is also all but guaranteed to make these women’s lives more difficult. The governors of Pennsylvania and Virginia, for example, are currently weighing prohibitive regulations on abortion clinics on medically irrelevant factors — based on the width of clinic hallways, for example — that would effectively shut down most of those states’ clinics. A similar law is being challenged in Kansas.

Indeed, this study matches a previous Guttmacher survey of women who had third-term abortions, which found half of them had a difficult time arranging an abortion.

To be sure, only 1.4 percent of all abortions in the United States annually occur after 21 weeks of pregnancy, and 90 percent of all abortions in the U.S. take place in the first 13 weeks. But later-term abortions are still an issue worth addressing, as they are more expensive and involve more medical risks. And as Lynn Jackson, the national case manager for the National Network of Abortion Funds, told Salon: “If women just knew they could get the resources, they would do it earlier.”

What a novel thought.