The number of U.S. abortions has fallen to its lowest level since the practice was legalized in 1973, a new report said Wednesday, drawing cheers and jeers from pro-life advocates.
The Guttmacher Institute, a research nonprofit that supports reproductive rights, reported that the number of U.S. abortions fell by 19% — from more than 1 million in 2011 to 862,000 in 2017, the fewest procedures performed since the U.S. Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision legalized abortion.
“We welcome the new report showing the decline in both the abortion rate and the overall number of abortions from 2011 to 2017,” said Chuck Donovan, president of the Charlotte Lozier Institute, the research arm of the pro-life Susan B. Anthony List. “There are several reasons for this positive news, including factors that Guttmacher does their best to ignore.”
Sen. Marco Rubio, Florida Republican, released a video on social media addressing the report.
“While some have greeted the news that there was a decline in abortions last year as good news, the fact of the matter remains that close to 900,000 unborn human beings were killed last year before they even had a chance to do anything, before they even had a chance to have a name,” Mr. Rubio said.
Guttmacher researchers Elizabeth Nash and Joerg Dreweke noted that the decline comes amid a “wave” of abortion restrictions across the country, but their report cautions against assigning causality to those restrictions.
“It is impossible to pinpoint exactly which factors drove recent declines, and to what degree,” Ms. Nash and Mr. Dreweke wrote. “The decline in abortions appears to be part of a broader decline in pregnancies, as evidenced by fewer births over the same period.”
Wednesday’s report notes that one potential driver of the decline could be the Affordable Care Act’s mandate that most private health insurance plans cover contraception — which can include so-called “abortion pills.” The report states that another contribution could be declining sexual activity.
“Findings from one national survey suggest a long-term increase in the number of people in the United States — mostly younger men — reporting not having sex in the past year,” the researchers wrote.
Guttmacher also reported that the number of births dropped by 98,000 between 2011 and 2017, with precipitous declines in red and blue states. The Guttmacher Institute is the only entity that strives to count all abortions in the U.S., making inquiries of individual providers.
Dr. Gillian Dean, senior director of medical standards at Planned Parenthood Federation of America, issued in a statement: “This report confirms what we’ve long known to be true, that increasing people’s access to affordable and effective methods of birth control leads to fewer abortions. The report also shows that restrictive state laws are not responsible for a reduction in abortion. This shouldn’t be up for debate.”
But Mr. Donovan of the pro-life Charlotte Lozier Institute said that Guttmacher overlooked trends, such as the closing of abortion facilities, limits on public funding and informed consent laws as drivers of the decline.
The Guttmacher report in part concedes Mr. Donovan’s point, noting that states with laws targeting abortion providers with burdensome regulations, such as Texas, Virginia, Ohio and Arizona, which experienced higher rates of clinic closures, did see declines above the national average of 20%.
However, Kentucky — which lost one of its two abortion clinics — experienced a decline (18%) below the national average, it notes. Moreover, abortion rates also declined in 13 of the 15 states that added clinics.
“Notably, 57% of the 2011–2017 decline in the number of abortions nationwide happened in the 18 states and the District Columbia that did not adopt any new abortion restrictions,” the researchers wrote.
This year pro-life states have increased restrictions on abortion while pro-choice states have moved to enshrine it in state law in anticipation that a legal case would prompt the new conservative majority on the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v Wade.
According to the latest Pew Research Poll, taken in late August, 61% of Americans say abortion should be legal in all or most cases, with 38% of Americans saying it should be illegal in all or most cases.
⦁ This article is based in part on wire service reports.