The Guttmacher Institute’s just-released abortion report, “Abortion Incidence and Service Availability in the United States, 2011,” is good news for the pro-life community.
The abortion rate dropped to 16.9 abortions per 1,000 women in 2011 — the lowest rate since 1973. Moreover, the abortion-rate reduction has been widespread, declining in almost all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
Only Alaska, Maryland, Montana, New Hampshire, West Virginia and Wyoming saw a slight increase or no change.
The actual number of abortions has also been falling. In 2011, the number dropped to 1.06 million abortions — 43,000 fewer than the 1.1 million in 2010.
Since 2008, the number of abortions has been falling about 4 percent to 5 percent a year.
The total number of abortion providers declined 4 percent between 2008 and 2011, and the number of abortion clinics (where 94 percent of procedures are performed) declined by 1 percent. Also in 2011, 89 percent of counties across the country had no abortion clinic.
How does the Guttmacher Institute interpret its findings in light of its pro-abortion mantra “safe, legal and rare?” The organization doesn’t appear to be too pleased, but then, it began under the auspices of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America.
In a press release, Elizabeth Nash, the state-issues manager for Guttmacher, said, “As we monitor trends in abortion going forward, it is critical that we also monitor whether these state restrictions are preventing women who need abortion services from accessing them.”
Iowa is one state where the drop in abortions had nothing to do with the lack of clinic access. The number of clinics in Iowa rose (from 10 in 2008 to 17 in 2011, for a 70 percent increase), and yet, the abortion rate dropped from 11.3 per 1,000 women in 2008 to 9.7 in 2011 — a 14 percent decrease.
Even the authors of the study, Rachel Jones and Jenna Jerman, admitted that abortion rates are falling in almost all states, but they denied that the decline resulted from “new state abortion restrictions” or from the “drop in the number of abortion providers during this period.”
Since 2010, though, the number of pro-life laws has skyrocketed. In 2011, there were 92 pro-life laws passed; in 2012, there were 43 passed, and in 2013, there were 70 more.
Also in 2013, 81 clinics closed and six others ceased doing surgical abortions, but still administered chemical abortion pills. As the 2012 and 2013 laws begin to take effect, the numbers of abortions should continue to drop.
The increase in chemical abortions is a problem. The report claimed that “early medication abortion” is safe “through nine weeks’ gestation” and “estimated that 36 percent of abortions up to nine weeks’ gestation in 2011 were early medication procedures” (up from 26 percent in 2008).
Guttmacher also reported that 98 percent of medication abortions “were done with mifepristone, and the rest with methotrexate or misoprostol alone.” The Food and Drug Administration makes it clear on its Mifepristone Web page that its approved regimen is through 49 days of pregnancy, or seven weeks.
Deeper problems also emerge when a chemical abortion fails and the women also undergo a surgical abortion — two abortion procedures for one pregnancy.
Still, the report shows that women are choosing life. It mentions that the Department of Health and Human Services’ Healthy People 2010 goal, established in 2000, to reduce unintended pregnancies was not met (the rate between 2001 and 2008 increased from 48 percent to 51 percent).
The report also notes that the number of women with unintended pregnancies choosing abortion dropped from 47 percent to 40 percent in the same time period. It speculates over whether abortion access is the reason.
The entire report struggles to find reasons other than the influence of pro-life messages and policies to explain the decrease in abortion. The authors are unwilling to admit that the answer could be as simple as American women not needing or turning away from abortion.
The Guttmacher report glaringly omits the Healthy People 2010 final review showing abstinence programs are exceeding expectations. The review indicates that the goals for reducing teenage pregnancy during the period 2006 through 2008 almost hit the 100 percent mark.
Teen pregnancy, which peaked in 1996 at 63 per 1,000 women, now hovers around 40. Girls under age 15 exceeded their abstinence goal by 14.3 percent, while under-15 boys only achieved 66.7 percent of their goal. Girls ages 15-17 reached almost 77 percent of the goal, and boys reached almost 78 percent.
The Guttmacher report notes a 13 percent decline in both the number and rate of abortions after 2011. The institute claims the new laws couldn’t have been responsible for the abortion decline because they weren’t in place before 2011.
While acknowledging that changes in sexual activity influence abortion rates, Guttmacher credits better contraceptive use for the drop in abortion and neglects to mention the data attesting to the effectiveness of abstinence programs, especially for girls.
While soft-pedaling the facts, Guttmacher’s latest report clearly shows that new pro-life laws, strong pro-life messages and effective abstinence education are related to the decline in abortions.
Brenda Zurita is research fellow for Concerned Women for America’s Beverly LaHaye Institute.