US Abortions Have Reached an All-Time Low

The Northeast remains the region with the highest abortion rates.

As the 44-year anniversary of the US Supreme Court’s ruling on Roe v. Wade approaches, a new analysis shows that abortion rates in the United States have never been lower than they were at the time of the ruling in 1973.

Rachel Jones, PhD, and Jenna Jerman, MPH, from the Guttmacher Institute, located in New York, New York and Washington, District of Columbia, examined data from institute’s 2014 Abortion Provider Census.

Questionnaires were in 2015 and 2016 to facilities that provided abortion services in 2013 or 2014. The facilities included clinics, physicians’ offices, and hospitals, but nonhospital facilities received longer questionnaires due to their services. State-level and national abortion rates were calculated based on the number of abortions among the population.

“The number and type of new abortion restrictions were examined in the states that had experienced the largest proportionate changes in clinics providing abortion services,” Jones and Jerman wrote in Wiley Online Library.

The total amount of abortions performed in the US steadily declined over the past few years:

  • 2011: 1,058,490
  • 2013: 958,700
  • 2014: 926,190

In 2014, when using the abortion-to-population ration, the most abortions were performed in the Northeast, followed by the West, South, and Midwest. Declines in rates were observed in all four regions: 11%, 16%, 16%, and 9%, respectively.

DC, New York, New Jersey, Maryland, and Florida had the highest rates of abortion. The lowest rates were found in Wyoming, South Dakota, Mississippi, Kentucky, and Idaho.

Some patients, however, may not have received an abortion in the state of their residence.

The Guttmacher Institute conducted the same abortion rate evaluation in 2011. It was concluded that the national abortion rate was on the decline, but there was no evidence to link it to restrictions that were put into place between 2008 and 2011. Questionnaires were similar in the 2011 and 2014 reports, but was updated for clarity as well as adding new items. In the past, the questionnaire asked for a simple yes or no answer. This was changed to allow a further explanation in order to capture abortions that weren’t elective, such as fetal anomaly or the mother’s health.

Access to abortion services declined from 2011 to 2014, however, it’s unclear whether this contributed to the decrease in abortions.

“It is beyond the scope of this descriptive study to explore the larger dynamics responsible for these patterns,” Jones and Jerman wrote, “but we suggest several potential factors that may have contributed to some of the observed patterns.”

One of those potential factors could be that fewer clinics were performing abortions in 2014 than in 2011. But the researchers speculated that potential other factors could be that fewer women were having unintended pregnancies, a main driver for abortion. The report did not mention if the morning after pill had an impact on the decline. The US Food and Drug Administration first approved an emergency contraceptive kit (Preven) in 1998.

Many women fear that their access to a safe abortion will be taken away as Donald Trump becomes the 45th president of the United States, as he is pro-life. The Senate and House have already taken the initial steps to dissemble the Affordable Care Act, which provides birth control among other services. Trump is also expected to defund Planned Parenthood, which provides abortions, sexually transmitted disease (STD) screenings, birth control, and additional women’s health services.

The study, “Abortion Incidence and Service Availability In the United States, 2014,” was published in Wiley Online Library.

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