Number of Abortions Hits Lowest Since 1973

Rate in 2017 was less than half what it was in 1990
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Sep 18, 2019 8:52 AM CDT
Abortion Rate Hits Lowest Since Roe V. Wade
In this May 21, 2019 file photo, August Mulvihill, of Norwalk, Iowa, protests recent abortion bans at the Statehouse in Des Moines, Iowa. A new report shows that the number and rate of abortions across the US have plunged to their lowest levels since the procedure became legal nationwide in 1973.   (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall, File)

The number and rate of abortions across the United States have plunged to their lowest levels since the procedure became legal nationwide in 1973, according to new figures released Wednesday. The report from the Guttmacher Institute, a research group that supports abortion rights, counted 862,000 abortions in the US in 2017. That's down from 926,000 tallied in the group's previous report for 2014, and from just over 1 million for 2011. Guttmacher is the only entity that strives to count all abortions in the US, making inquiries of individual providers. 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. Highlights, per the AP:

  • Fewer women are getting pregnant. Guttmacher noted that the birth rate, as well as the abortion rate, declined during the years covered by the new report. A likely factor is increased accessibility to contraception since 2011, as the Affordable Care Act required most private health insurance plans to cover contraceptives without out-of-pocket costs.
  • The 2017 abortion rate was 13.5 abortions per 1,000 women aged 15-44—the lowest since Roe v. Wade. Following that ruling, the number of abortions in the US rose steadily—peaking at 1.6 million in 1990. It is now less than half what is was in 1990.
  • Guttmacher noted that almost 400 state laws restricting abortion access were enacted between 2011 and 2017, but it said these laws were not the main force behind the overall decline in abortions. It said 57% of the nationwide decline occurred in the 18 states, plus the District of Columbia, that did not enact any new restrictions.

  • Between 2011 and 2017, the number of clinics providing abortion in the US declined from 839 to 808, with significant regional disparities. The South had a decline of 50 clinics, including 25 in Texas, and the Midwest had a decline of 33 clinics, including nine each in Iowa, Michigan, and Ohio. By contrast, the Northeast added 59 clinics, mostly in New Jersey and New York.
  • Areas with the highest abortion rates in 2017 were the District of Columbia, New Jersey, New York, Maryland, and Florida. Rates were lowest in Wyoming, South Dakota, Kentucky, Idaho and Missouri—many women from those five states go out of state to obtain abortions.
  • One significant trend: women are increasingly relying on medication rather than surgical abortion. The so-called abortion pill accounted for 39% of all abortions in 2017, up from 29% in 2014.
(Read more abortion stories.)

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