Abortion rate stalls after decade-long decline
January 11th, 2011
12:01 AM ET

Abortion rate stalls after decade-long decline

The steady decline in the number of abortions performed annually in the United States has plateaued, new data from the Guttmacher Institute suggest.

In its fifteenth survey of abortion providers since 1973, the institute found  a 0.5 percent increase in the number of abortions performed in 2005 versus 2008. The data essentially end the downward trend in abortion incidence that had been observed since 1990.

"[The data] suggest we're not doing enough to help women avoid unintended pregnancies," says Rachel K. Jones, a senior research associate at the Guttmacher Institute who wrote the report.

To collect the data, Jones and her team mailed questionnaires to all potential abortion providers, including hospitals and doctors' offices. They defined "provider" as any site where abortions are performed, not as any individual who performs them.

The team also sought information on gestational limits (how late in the pregnancy the provider would perform an abortion), the type of abortive services offered to patients, and what, if any, harassment the provider experienced. In total, more than 2,300 surveys were sent out.

"The abortion rate remained unchanged between 2005 and 2008," said Jones. "19.6 abortions for every 1,000 women in 2008 is virtually the same as 19.4 abortions for every 1,000 women in 2005. It's a nominal increase."

There were notable changes as well: Of the 1.21 million abortions performed in 2008, 17 percent were early medication abortions. Jones found a 24 percent increase in the number of these procedures being conducted at nonhospital facilities. The majority of those involved Mifepristone, commonly known as RU-486. Indeed, the number of providers offering this service also increased.

"Heavy promotion of RU-486 and chemical abortions has really had an impact," said Randall K. O'Bannon, Ph.D., director of Education and Research with the National Right to Life Committee. "[Women] would consider abortion when they might not consider it before, and they would take this pill."

The rate of unintended pregnancies in the United States was a major contributing factor to the stalled decline of the abortion rate Planned Parenthood Federation of America said  in a statement to CNN. "The first step we can take as a nation is to increase access to affordable contraception," reads the statement. "The most effective way to prevent unintended pregnancy, and reduce the need for abortion, is to improve access to affordable birth control."

For her part, Jones speculates that the lack of improvement in contraceptive use among women may play a role in why the abortion rate has stopped declining. But she also hypothesizes there may be a correlation with teen pregnancy; as the rate of teen pregnancy declined, so did the national rate of abortion, yet both have recently stalled.

And the economy may also be responsible. The data Jones collected were from 2008, when the economic downturn had just begun.

"These may be women who lost access to health care, who had a harder time accessing contraception," said Jones. "Or they may be poor women who under different circumstances would have carried their pregnancy to term but in poor economic times, with a lower income, were more likely to get abortions."

The full report will be published in the March issue of the Guttmacher Institute's journal Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health.

soundoff (284 Responses)
  1. the truth

    If you were commenting on my article mabye you should reread it lol. Im for Contraception. Mabye you should actually read a comment before you do a "critique" on it lol

    January 11, 2011 at 19:25 | Report abuse | Reply
    • WoodUshutup?

      My post was not directed at you. I was responding to "More, More, More." Sorry for any confusion.

      January 11, 2011 at 19:36 | Report abuse |
  2. pia

    the 13th amendment says...neither slavery nor involuntary servitude shall exist in the US
    forcing women to endure an unwanted pregnancy sounds like involuntary servitude to me

    January 11, 2011 at 20:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. jess456

    It's morally wrong to kill a life. It doesn't matter if one isn'tborn yet it's still murder. There wouldn't be a need for abortion if people were cautious of their actions.

    January 11, 2011 at 21:20 | Report abuse | Reply
    • WoodUshutup?

      I don't believe abortion is morally wrong. Why should your beliefs trump mine when the issue is of concern only to me and my body, jess.

      January 11, 2011 at 21:36 | Report abuse |
    • WoodUshutup?

      Oh, wait. Guess what, jess? Morals aren't law, and your idea of morality has not one thing to do with anyone but you. This isn't a theocracy and your beliefs and religion aren't laws. Get over it.

      January 11, 2011 at 21:38 | Report abuse |
    • WoodUshutup?

      I wonder, jess the genius, do you take antibiotics? You DO know they kill bacteria that are ALIVE don't you?

      January 11, 2011 at 21:49 | Report abuse |
  4. What to Do

    Is there anyone out there who truly understands what a woman in this situation is feeling? I am pretty confident that most women who find out they are pregnant with an unplanned pregnancy do not immediately walk into a clinic and expect to terminate their pregnancy on the same day. The majority of women have thought long & hard about the choices that are available to her for their current situation. By the way any of these options are not easy choices to make. " Shoud I continue the pregnancy to full term and have a baby that I was not ready for emotionally. Should I stop going to school because I need to take care of my baby? What if my boyfriend does not want to be a Dad and I have to do everything alone? What if I resent this baby when I get older because I never finished what I wanted to and gave everything up for the baby? Maybe I can choose adoption. Will I always wonder what my baby looks like? Is it in a safe and happy home? Will it have a better chance in life being adopted instead of being with a mom who isn't ready and selfish? I could get an abortion but is it safe? I heard that a woman can die or be at more of a risk for breast cancer? Will I be able to ever have children when I am ready and not so selfish? I read that having an abortion will cause a woman to be sterile. Will GOD ever forgive me or am I destined now for Hell? " It is so hard to make a choice. This is not my fault. My birth control failed." I am so afraid!!!!!!!!!

    Making this choice is not that easy for any women. The choice I make is mine and whatever I choose I will live have to live with good or bad.

    January 12, 2011 at 14:11 | Report abuse | Reply
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  6. gerald

    Abortion rates have not really declined because statistics about abortion pills are not included. Abortion has actually increased. HELLO!

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    Thanks for introducing a little rtinaoality into this debate.

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