News / USA

US Abortion Rate at 40-Year Low

Ken Bredemeier
A new study says the abortion rate in the United States has dropped to its lowest level since the procedure was legalized throughout the country four decades ago.

A pro-abortion rights research group, the Guttmacher Institute in New York, says there were fewer than 17 abortions for every 1,000 women in 2011, the latest year for which statistics have been collected.  In all, about 1.1 million abortions were performed then.

The 2011 figure was 13 percent lower than in 2008, but slightly higher than in 1973, the year the U.S. Supreme Court legalized abortion.

The lead researcher for the Guttmacher report, Rachel Jones, says in a VOA interview that better birth control methods, such as the widespread use of intrauterine devices (IUDs) with their 99 percent success rate, have helped lower the U.S. abortion rate.

"There is a lot less room for user error because you know with the pill you have to remember to take it every day.  You can not forget it if you are traveling.  The same thing with patch and ring, even once a week or once a month, you have got to remember to change those out.  But with the IUD, once the health care provider puts it in, the woman does not have to think about it until she decides she wants to get pregnant and have it taken out," said Jones.

She said the weak U.S. economy since 2008 also contributed to the decline in both the U.S. abortion rate and the country's birth rate.

Abortion remains controversial.  In 2013, opponents of the practice enacted 70 new laws in 22 states to try to limit the procedure in various ways.  Abortion rights advocates have challenged the legality of some of the laws and the disputes could eventually be considered by the Supreme Court.

Jones said the U.S. abortion rate could continue to decline as women increasingly adopt "highly effective" means of birth control and as previously uninsured women gain access to free contraception provided under new national health care reforms.

But Jones said abortions could also be limited by new regulations being adopted by some state legislatures opposed to abortion.

"Since 2011, a lot of states have enacted a lot of onerous restrictions around abortion, and the concern is that, you know, [abortion] providers in certain states are going to have a harder time keeping their doors open.  Women are going to have a harder time getting to the providers that are there and this could also contribute to a decline in abortion, which would not be a good thing," she said.

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