The American abortion rate has dropped to its lowest level since 1973's landmark Roe v. Wade decision—and the fall appears to have a lot more to do with contraception and the economy than with state laws restricting abortion, a new study finds. Researchers say there were fewer than 17 abortions for every 1,000 women in 2011, down a full 13% from 2008 and only slightly higher than the rate after abortion was legalized in all 50 states 40 years ago, the Washington Post reports.
The abortion rate has been in long-term decline from a peak of almost 30 per 1,000 women in 1981, though the fall stalled in the middle of the last decade, notes the New York Times. The study's lead author says the decline is probably linked to the overall decline in pregnancy rates that happened during the recession, along with the growing use of near-foolproof long-term contraceptives like intrauterine devices. Anti-abortion activists, however, say the drop shows their lobbying efforts are working. The decline "shows that women are rejecting the idea of abortion as the answer to an unexpected pregnancy," the president of the National Right to Life Committee tells the AP. (Read more abortion stories.)