Photo: Clodagh Kilcoyne/Rex/REX USA.
While women in many parts of this country are losing their right to choose, new data suggest that the demand for abortions is actually lower than it's been in decades. According to a new report released by the pro-choice Guttmacher Institute, the number of abortions performed in this country fell 13% between 2008 and 2011 (from 1.2 million to 1.06 million, to be exact). To put these numbers in perspective, the 2011 number represents the lowest abortion rate since 1973 — which happens to be the year that Roe v. Wade gave women the right to choose.
Why the steady decline? Some think the continued (and intensifying) fight over abortion in this country has created more and more stigma around the procedure, possibly leading fewer women to consider it as an option in the case of pregnancy. However, the study also cites decline in overall pregnancy rates over the same period. It makes sense, then, that researchers behind the report point to an increase in the use of effective long-term birth-control methods (think IUDs), especially among young women, as a major factor in the decline in abortions, as well as pregnancies per se. The recession could also have played a role: Economic uncertainty often precipitates a decline in pregnancy rates, which, in this case at least, seem to track pretty closely with abortion rates.
While the last few years have been generally pretty brutal for abortion rights in many states, the study's authors say these low abortion numbers are not due to decreased access to abortion services. In fact, some of the steepest declines in abortion procedures were observed in states where abortion is relatively accessible, including California and New York.