DALLAS, February 3, 2014–A report released by the Guttmacher Institute found that the abortion rate has declined to its lowest point since 1973, the year that abortion became legal throughout the United States. The abortion rate—or numbers of abortions per 1,000 women—is now 16.9, down from its high of 26.3 in 1991.
The abortion ratio—or the number of abortions per 100 pregnancies, excluding miscarriages, has also fallen. The current abortion ratio is 21.2, meaning that just over one in five pregnancies end in abortion. In 1991, the number was 27.2 per 100 pregnancies, according to the Guttmacher data.
The Guttmacher Institute is a pro-abortion rights research institute, originally founded as an in-house research facility for Planned Parenthood. They have since ended their formal relationship with Planned Parenthood. According to Guttmacher’s website, their purpose is “to advance sexual and reproductive health and rights through an interrelated program of research, policy analysis and public education.”
The Guttmacher numbers, considered by observers to be the most accurate figures with regard to abortions, were obtained by surveying those facilities known to provide abortions. There is no requirement for abortion providers to report their information to any federal health agency. Reporting requirements vary by state, with some states having no reporting requirements at all.
The report notes that abortion has declined throughout the country, with the biggest drops occurring in the Midwest, where there has been a 17% decline since 2008. The West had a decline of 15% and the South had a decline of 12%. The Northeast still has the nation’s highest rate of 25 abortions per 1,000 women, but also had a rate decline of 9% since 2008.
Despite an increase in recent years of legislation restricting or regulating abortion, the authors of the Guttmacher study do not attribute the decline in abortion to new laws. The study’s lead author Rachel Jones said, “With abortion rates falling in almost all states, our study did not find evidence that the national decline in abortions during this period was the result of new state abortion restrictions. We also found no evidence that the decline was linked to a drop in the number of abortion providers during this period.” The authors suggest the decline may be due to overall decline in the national pregnancy and birth rate, increased contraception use, and economic factors.
The National Right to Life Committee disagrees with this assessment noting that public debate surrounding legislative efforts to regulate abortion has had an impact on how people view abortion. Carol Tobias, president of NRLC 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.”
Abortion reached it’s peak in the early 1990s, with a high of over 1.5 million abortions a year in 1991, according to Guttmacher. In that year, the rate was 26.3 abortions per 1000 women and the ration was 27.4 abortions per 100 pregnancies. In 2011, there were 1,058,500 abortions. There have been over 55 million abortion in the United States since 1973.