Report: U.S. abortion rate at lowest since 1973

Published: Sunday, Feb. 2, 2014 11:08 p.m.CDT • Updated: Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2014 9:26 a.m.CDT

NEW YORK – The U.S.abortionratedeclinedto its lowest level since 1973, and the number ofabortionsfell by 13 percent between 2008 and 2011, according the latest national survey ofabortionproviders conducted by a prominent research institute.

The Guttmacher Institute, which supports legal access toabortion, said in a report being issued Monday that there were about 1.06 millionabortionsin 2011 – down from about 1.2 million in 2008. Guttmacher's figures are of interest on both sides of theabortiondebate because they are more up-to-date and in some ways more comprehensive thanabortionstatistics compiled by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

According to the report, theabortionrate dropped to 16.9abortionsper 1,000 women ages 15-44 in 2011, well below the peak of 29.3 in 1981 and the lowest since a rate of 16.3 in 1973.

Guttmacher and other groups supportingabortionrights have been apprehensive about the recent wave of laws restrictingabortionaccess that have been passed in Republican-controlled legislatures. However, the report's authors said the period that they studied – 2008 to 2011 – predates the major surge of such laws starting with the 2011 legislative session.

The lead author, Rachel Jones, also said there appeared to be no link to adeclinein the number ofabortionproviders. According to the report, the total number of providers dropped by 4 percent, to 1,720, between 2008 and 2011, and the number ofabortionclinicsdeclinedby just 1 percent to 839.

According to Jones, the drop inabortionswas likely linked to a steep nationaldeclinein overall pregnancy and birth rates.

"Contraceptive use improved during this period, as more women and couples were using highly effective long-acting reversible contraceptive methods," she said. "Moreover, the recent recession led many women and couples to want to avoid or delay pregnancy and childbearing."

While the overallabortionratedeclined, the proportion ofabortionsentailing early medication procedures continued to increase. According to Guttmacher, about 239,400abortionsof this type were performed in 2011, representing 23 percent of all non-hospitalabortions, an increase from 17 percent in 2008.

Carol Tobias, president of the National Right to Life Committee, described the overall drop inabortionnumbers as evidence that the anti-abortion movement's lobbying and legislative efforts were having an impact.

"It shows that women are rejecting the idea ofabortionas the answer to an unexpected pregnancy," she said.

Americans United for Life, another anti-abortion group engaged in the efforts to pass restrictive state laws, said Guttmacher's numbers should be viewed skeptically because they are based on voluntary self-reporting byabortionproviders.

"It is impossible really to know the trueabortionrate," said the group's president, Charmaine Yoest.

The report marked the 16th time since 1973, whenabortionwas legalized nationwide, that Guttmacher has attempted to survey all knownabortionproviders in the U.S. However, a section of the new report acknowledges that someabortionsmight not be tallied.

The highestabortionrates were in New York, Maryland, the District of Columbia, Delaware and New Jersey; the lowest were in Wyoming, Mississippi, South Dakota, Kentucky and Missouri. However, Guttmacher said many women in Wyoming and Mississippi, where providers are scarce, go out of state to getabortions.

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Online:http://www.guttmacher.org/

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Follow David Crary on Twitter athttp://twitter.com/CraryAP

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