U.S. abortion rate hit the lowest level since 1973 in 2011, according to a new report released Monday.
According to the Guttmacher Institute’s report, in 2011 the U.S. abortion rate decline to 16.9 abortions per 1,000 women ages 15-44. The lowest level since the Supreme Court legalized the procedure in 1973, when the rate was 16.3 abortions per 1,000 women. The statistic for 2011 is also much lower than the 1981 peak of 29.3 per 1,000 women.
The report, “Abortion Incidence and Service availability in the United States, 2011” further found that between 2008 and 2011 the rate dropped 13 percent and the number of abortions declined by the same percentage as well.
While the report does not offer an in-depth investigation of the reasons behind the decline, the authors do point out that the study looks at a period prior to the swell of state-level abortion restricting measures. Instead of regulation, the authors point to the overall decline in pregnancy and birth rates during the period.
“Contraceptive use improved during this period, as more women and couples were using highly effective long-acting reversible contraceptive methods, such as the IUD. Moreover, the recent recession led many women and couples to want to avoid or delay pregnancy and childbearing,” the report’s lead author Rachel Jones said in a statement.
The National Right to Life pushed back on the authors’ reasons for the decline, suggesting that the debate over pro-life legislation had an effect on women’s behavior even before the surge of abortion restrictions (according to Guttmacher, 205 laws passed in the period between 2011 and 2013).
“The legislative efforts of the right-to-life movement, and significantly, the resulting national debate and educational campaigns surrounding pro-life legislation should not be minimized when discussing the decline in abortion numbers,” National Right to Life president Carol Tobias said. “The more Americans learn about the development of the unborn child and the tragedy of abortion, the more they reject abortion as a legitimate answer to an unexpected pregnancy.”
The conservative Concerned Women for America also argued the results show that the country is trending more pro-life.
“The bottom line is that Americans and specifically women have become increasingly pro-life,” said CWA president and CEO Penny Nance. “The pro-life message resonates especially with young women who have grown up seeing their own sonogram pictures. The debate on whether or not a child in the womb is a part of our human family is settled science.”
The abortion provider Planned Parenthood saw the report as another reason to continue to protect the Obamacare contraception mandate.
“The report concludes that access to a range of birth control methods is playing an important role in reducing unintended pregnancy and decreasing the need for abortion,” Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards said. “This report comes just as some politicians and corporations are trying to make it harder for women to get birth control by chipping away at the historic benefit in the Affordable Care Act that requires insurance plans to cover birth control without a copay.”
The Guttmacher’s researchers added that while the over all abortion rates declined, early medication abortions increased by about 17 percent from 2008.