THE DAILY REPORT
ABORTION NEWS | U.S. Abortion Rate Lowest Since 1974, Guttmacher Report Says
[Jan. 17, 2008]
The U.S. abortion rate declined 9% from 2000 to 2005, reaching its lowest rate since 1974, according to a study released Thursday by the Guttmacher Institute
, the Washington Post
reports. The number of abortions declined to 1.2 million in 2005, the lowest number since 1976, according to the study (Stein, Washington Post
, 1/17). The findings will be published in the March issue of Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health
(Peres, Chicago Tribune
The study was based on a survey conducted regularly since the 1970s of all abortion providers known to Guttmacher nationwide. The 2005 study surveyed 1,787 abortion providers, the Post
reports. The total number of abortions among women ages 15 to 44 decreased by 8% from 1.3 million in 2000 to 1.2 million in 2005. These figures continue a decline that began in 1990, when the number of abortions peaked at more than 1.6 million. The abortion rate decreased by 9% from 21.3 abortions per 1,000 women ages 15 to 44 in 2000 to 19.4 abortions per 1,000 women in 2005. The abortion rate peaked in 1981 at 29.3 abortions per 1,000 women, the Post
The study also found that the proportion of pregnancies ending in abortion declined from 24.5% in 2000 to 22.4% in 2005 -- a decrease from a high of 30.4% in 1983. In addition, the study found that abortion rates varied widely throughout the country, with more women in the Northeast and fewer in the South and Midwest receiving the procedure. Nearly 35% of women ages 15 to 44 were living in one of the 87% of counties nationwide that did not have an abortion provider in 2005, the study found (Washington Post
The study also found that abortions are occurring earlier in pregnancy, with 6 in 10 procedures performed in the first eight weeks' gestation and 3 in 10 performed in the first six weeks' gestation. About 90% of abortions occur in the first trimester, according to the study (Chicago Tribune
, 1/17). Types of Procedures, Number of Providers
The study found a 2% decline in the number of abortion providers nationwide, a smaller decrease than in earlier studies (Washington Post
, 1/17). The number of providers declined in 26 states and Washington, D.C., increased in 15 states and remained stable in nine (Guttmacher release, 1/16).
Rachel Jones, the lead author of the study, attributed the smaller decrease in the number of abortion providers to FDA
's approval of medication abortion (Washington Post
, 1/17). According to a Guttmacher release, the number of abortion providers would have declined 8% from 2000 to 2005 without an increase in the number of physicians who only provide medication abortions (Guttmacher release, 1/16).
In 2005, 57% of abortion providers were offering medication abortions, compared with 33% in early 2001. Medication abortions accounted for 13% of all abortions performed in 2005 and 22% of abortions performed earlier than nine weeks' gestation, according to the study (Chicago Tribune
, 1/17). Medical abortions accounted for 6% of all abortions in 2000, according to USA Today
(Jayson, USA Today
, 1/17). Reaction
According to the Post
, the report did not consider possible reasons for the decline, but both abortion-rights opponents and supporters welcomed the findings. "This study shows that prevention works, and that's what we provide in our health centers every day," Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America
, said, adding, "At the end of the day, Americans of all stripes believe that we need to do more to prevent unintended pregnancy and make health care affordable and accessible" (Washington Post
Randall O'Bannon, director of education and research for National Right to Life Committee
, said the decline in abortions is a "significant drop" and is "encouraging." Abortion-rights opponents also said women who learn more about abortion are less likely to choose it and attributed the decrease in part to laws in more than 30 states that require counseling prior to undergoing abortion. They added that an increase in crisis pregnancy centers -- which offer no-cost infant supplies, parenting classes and other support services -- also has helped fuel the decrease.
"We are making progress, state by state and law by state law," Denise Burke, president of American United for Life
, said. However, some of the states with the biggest abortion rate declines do not have "tight" abortion restrictions, the Los Angeles Times
reports. Oregon, rated by AUL as the "least pro-life state," had the second largest abortion rate decline -- 25% from 2000 to 2005.
Abortion-rights supporters said the decrease likely is because more women are avoiding unintended pregnancies, in part because of wider access to emergency contraception (Simon, Los Angeles Times
, 1/17). Ted Joyce of Baruch College
said that the decrease is due to a combination of factors, including wider access to contraception, greater awareness about teen pregnancy and welfare reform. "The issue as to why abortion is falling is a complicated set of dynamics that we don't have a handle on yet," he said (USA Today
, 1/17). Lorie Chaiten, director of the reproductive rights project at the ACLU of Illinois
, noted that one in five U.S. pregnancies still ended in abortion in 2005 and that the U.S. has the highest unintended pregnancy rate of any developed country. "We need to increase access to family planning and comprehensive sex education," Chaiten said (Chicago Tribune
The study is available online
NPR's "The Bryant Park Project
" on Thursday reported on the study ("The Bryant Park Project," NPR, 1/17). Audio of the segment is available online
The information contained in this publication reflects media coverage of women’s health issues and does not necessarily reflect the views of the National Partnership for Women & Families.