November 26, 2012 — The U.S. abortion rate decreased by 5% between 2008 and 2009, marking the largest one-year decline in more than 10 years, according to an annual report published on Wednesday by CDC, the Los Angeles Times reports.
The figures are based on reports from 43 states and two cities that have been voluntarily providing data on abortions each year for the last decade. A few states -- including California, the most populous state -- do not report abortion data, according to the Times. CDC estimates there were about 785,000 abortions in 2009, while other reports place the number at around one million (Muskal, Los Angeles Times, 11/21).
CDC reported that the abortion rate declined from about 16 abortions per 1,000 women of child-bearing age in 2008, to 15 abortions per 1,000 women in 2009, reflecting a decrease of nearly 38,000 abortions (AP/USA Today, 11/21). The abortion ratio -- the proportion of abortions in relation to live births -- fell by 2%, from 232 abortions per 1,000 live births in 2008, to 227 in 2009, according to CDC (Kliff, "Wonkblog," Washington Post, 11/23). From 2000 to 2009, the total number of abortions, the abortion rate and the ratio of abortions to live births each decreased, by 6%, 7% and 8%, respectively -- all reaching all-time lows.
States, Racial Groups
Mississippi -- which has few abortion providers and the nation's highest teen birthrate -- had the lowest abortion rate among the states, at four abortions per 1,000 women of child-bearing age. New York -- which is second only to California in the number of abortion providers -- had the highest abortion rate, at eight times that of Mississippi.
Meanwhile, white women had the lowest abortion rate among racial groups, at 8.5 abortions per 1,000 women, while the rate was four times that for black women. The rate was 19 abortions per 1,000 women for Latinas (Los Angeles Times, 11/21).
Contraception Likely Affected Rates, Experts Say
Multiple experts said the decline in the abortion rate likely reflects an increased use of the most effective contraceptive methods. According to a government study released earlier this year, more teens who are sexually active are using the most effective methods of birth control (AP/USA Today, 11/21). A study published in the journal Fertility and Sterility found that the use of long-acting reversible contraceptives -- such as intrauterine devices -- tripled between 2002 and 2009, with the largest increase -- 8.5% -- occurring between 2007 and 2009 ("Wonkblog," Washington Post, 11/23).
Another factor could be greater availability of emergency contraception, which was made available without a prescription in 2006 for women ages 18 and older. In 2009, the age was lowered to 17, according to AP/USA Today (AP/USA Today, 11/21).
Although some have suggested that a factor behind the trend might be the economic recession from December 2007 to June 2009, which might have prompted some women to be more careful about using birth control, research suggests that the economy has little effect on abortion rates, and one paper from 2004 posited that the abortion rate increases when unemployment rises ("Wonkblog," Washington Post, 11/23).
Debra Ness, publisher & president, National Partnership
Andrea Friedman, associate editor & director of reproductive health programs, National Partnership
Melissa Safford, associate editor & policy advocate for reproductive health, National Partnership
Perry Sacks, assistant editor & health program associate, National Partnership
Cindy Romero, assistant editor & communications assistant, National Partnership
Justyn Ware, editor
Amanda Wolfe, editor-in-chief
Heather Drost, Hanna Jaquith, Marcelle Maginnis, Ashley Marchand and Michelle Stuckey, staff writers
Tucker Ball, director of new media, National Partnership