By the Numbers

Abortion Rates Are the Lowest They’ve Been Since Row v. Wade

Pin it

The abortion rate among American women is the lowest its been in three decades, says a new report from the Guttmacher Institute, a sexual and reproductive health think tank. According to the latest stats, the total number of abortions per year dropped 13 percent between 2008 and 2011, resuming a general long-term downward trend that had briefly stalled for a few years in the middle ’00s.

But while the numbers are clear, the reasons for the numbers aren’t. The authors did note that the drop doesn’t actually seem to be related to the recent spate of state-level abortion restrictions, especially since most of the new legislation didn’t take effect until the at least the end of 2011. The decline, it seems, has more to do with larger reproductive trends than new laws. There’s been an overall national drop in pregnancy and birth rates, for one thing. For another, contraceptive use has improved since 2008, especially thanks to “highly effective long-acting reversible” methods like the IUD. And then there’s the effect of the recession — researchers suggest that the general economic climate between 2008 and 2011 might have led people to “want to avoid or delay pregnancy and childbearing.”

The study also found that while general abortion rates are down, the proportion of abortions that were “early medication procedures” keeps going up — findings, Guttmacher says, that ought to curb anti-choice lawmakers’ fears. Controversial as it is, it seems that access to the abortion pill doesn’t increase the number of terminated pregnancies. “Clearly, the availability of medication abortion does not lead women to have more abortions,” says lead researcher Rachel Jones. “However, it has likely helped women obtain abortion care earlier in pregnancy, as evidenced by a shift toward very early abortions.”

The full report, available online, will be published in the March 2014 issue of Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health.

[h/t New York Times]