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Tipsheet

US Abortion Rate Drops to Lowest Level Since Roe v. Wade

Timothy Tai/Columbia Daily Tribune via AP, File

The U.S. abortion rate has dropped to an all-time low since the procedure was legalized nationwide in 1973 with the passage of Roe v. Wade, according to new data from the Guttmacher Institute released Wednesday.

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According to the pro-abortion research group, there were 862,000 abortions in 2017, down from their previous 2014 report, in which the total was 926,000. In 2011, the number of abortions counted was just over 1 million.   

The Institute notes that state restrictions on abortion “were not the main driver of the decline” between 2011 and 2017, but fewer births and pregnancies.

The new report illustrates that abortions are decreasing in all parts of the country, whether in Republican-controlled states seeking to restrict abortion access or in Democratic-run states protecting abortion rights. Between 2011 and 2017, abortion rates increased in only five states and the District of Columbia.

One reason for the decline in abortions is that fewer women are becoming pregnant. The Guttmacher Institute noted that the birth rate, as well as the abortion rate, declined during the years covered by the new report. A likely factor, the report said, is increased accessibility of contraception since 2011, as the Affordable Care Act required most private health insurance plans to cover contraceptives without out-of-pocket costs.

According to the report, the 2017 abortion rate was 13.5 abortions per 1,000 women aged 15-44 — the lowest rate since the Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion. Following that ruling, the number of abortions in the U.S. rose steadily — peaking at 1.6 million in 1990 before starting a steady, still-continuing decline. The abortion rate is now less than half what is was in 1990. [...]

One significant trend documented in the report: people who have abortions are increasingly relying on medication rather than surgery. Medication abortion, making use of the so-called abortion pill, accounted for 39% of all abortions in 2017, up from 29% in 2014. (AP)

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Guttmacher's research scientist Rachel Jones said anti-abortion activists do not deserve credit for the decrease in abortions.

“The anti-abortion activists will try to take credit for this decline, but the facts don’t support their argument,” she said, reports National Review. “This means fewer people became pregnant, not that individuals chose or were made to give birth rather than have an abortion.”

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