Study attributes this more to increased use of contraception

The abortion rate in the U.S. dropped 13 per cent during 2008-11, to their lowest level since they were legalised in 1973, according to a study by the Guttmacher Institute, which supports legal access to abortion.

The study found that the rate was 16.9 per 1,000 women in the 15 to 44 age group in 2011, or 1.1 million abortions in absolute terms, and it also said that the decline was due more to the increased use of contraception than increased restrictions on access to abortions.

Pro-choice groups are widely seen as being “apprehensive” over a recent wave of legislation passed in Republican-controlled states restricting abortion access.

However, this week the authors of the Guttmacher study said the period that they examined “predates the major surge of such laws starting with the 2011 legislative session.”

In 1973, in the aftermath of the epoch-making Roe vs. Wade case that made abortions legal, the figure was 16.3 per 1,000, according to the report, “Abortion Incidence and Service Availability in the United States, 2011,” which will appear in the March 2014 issue of Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health .

The report sparked off a sharp debate between the pro-choice and pro-life groups, with the lead author of the study, Rachel Jones, saying that there appeared to be no link between the decline and the number of abortion providers or restrictions on access to abortion services.

“The decline in abortions coincided with a steep national drop in overall pregnancy and birth rates,” Ms. Jones noted, adding, “Contraceptive use improved during this period, as more women and couples were using highly effective, long-acting reversible contraceptive methods, such as the IUD.”

She said that in recent years the economic recession had led many women and couples to avoid or delay pregnancy and childbearing.

Further, the report emphasised that the total number of abortion service providers fell by four per cent, to 1,720, between 2008 and 2011, and the number of abortion clinics declined by only one per cent to 839.

However the pro-life movement here welcomed the findings and Carol Tobias, President of the National Right to Life Committee, said, “It shows that women are rejecting the idea of abortion as the answer to an unexpected pregnancy.”

Similarly Charmaine Yoest, President of the conservative Americans United for Life group that helps push state-level abortion restrictions, told The Washington Post , “This is a post-sonogram generation… There is increased awareness throughout our culture of the moral weight of the unborn baby. And that’s a good thing.”