- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 4, 2002

The number of reported abortions fell to fewer than 862,000 in 1999, continuing a steady decline that started in 1991, the federal government said in a recent surveillance report.
The abortion ratio the number of abortions per 1,000 live births fell to the lowest recorded level since 1975, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said. The 1999 ratio was 256 abortions per 1,000 live births, a 3.2 percent decline from 1998.
However, the small decline in the number of abortions in 1999 down 2.5 percent from 884,273 abortions in 1998 was not enough to budge the national abortion rate. That rate remained at 17 abortions per 1,000 women. This was the same number as in 1997 and 1998, the agency said in its 1999 Abortion Surveillance report, released Friday.
The CDC report attributes the decline in abortions to many factors, such as a decrease in the number of unintended pregnancies; an aging female population; reduced access to abortion services; and passage of abortion laws that require waiting periods or parental notification.
Better contraceptive practices and "emergency contraception" are also playing a large role in reducing unwanted pregnancies and abortion rates, said Vicki Saporta, president and chief executive of the National Abortion Federation.
Emergency contraception, also called "the morning after pill," is the practice of taking a double dose of certain birth-control pills within 72 hours of unprotected sex. Advocacy groups say greater use of emergency contraception could avert hundreds of thousands of unintended pregnancies annually.
Abortions are declining because the public knows more about the details of abortion, said Laura Echevarria of the National Right to Life Committee.
This, in turn, is causing Americans, especially young ones, to become much more conservative in their views on abortion, she said.
A case in point, she added, is the Zogby International poll of 1,800 persons conducted last month for the Buffalo (N.Y.) News. The poll found that 32 percent of people had changed their opinions on abortion, with 21 percent becoming "more negative" on abortion, the newspaper said.
The CDC report compiles abortion data only from those states that collect it, unlike previous years when it estimated data from nonreporting states. Thus, the 1999 abortion report does not include data from Alaska, California, New Hampshire or Oklahoma.
The report found that New York had the highest occurrence of legal abortions (137,234) and Wyoming had the lowest (110).
Locally, Virginia reported 27,354 abortions, Maryland reported 11,164 and the District reported 7,373.
Other highlights of the report:
A total of 137,396 abortions were performed on teens. More than 60 percent were performed on 18- and 19-year-olds.
Fifty-seven percent of abortions were performed at eight weeks or less gestation and another 20 percent were performed between nine and 10 weeks gestation.
Some 9,643 abortions, or 1.5 percent, were performed later than 21 weeks gestation.
More than 97 percent of abortions (681,519) were by dilation and curettage methods; less than 1 percent (6,278) were done "medically" with drugs such as mifepristone.
In 1998, the most recent year for data, nine women died as a result of complications from legally induced abortions.

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