A recently released Guttmacher Institute study finds that the abortion rate in the United States has dropped to its lowest rate since 1973. Citing improved access to contraception, the research found that the abortion rate has dropped 13 percent since 2008, and 44 percent since it peaked in 1981. The abortion rate has dropped or held steady every year for twenty consecutive years except briefly between 2005 and 2006 when the rate increased, ironically while both Houses of Congress and the White House were occupied by “pro-life” Republicans. In the years from the beginning of 2009 to the start of 2011 when Democrats held the White House and both houses of Congress the abortion rate declined by 13 percent.
Of course, abortion rates are determined by a number of factors and which party is in control of Washington is a relatively minor factor. However, what the numbers do tell us is that electing “pro-life” politicians does not necessarily translate into lower rates of abortion and electing “pro-choice” politicians does not actually increase the incidence of abortion. Access to improved contraception appears to be far more useful than abortion restrictions in reducing abortion rates. Interestingly, the region of the country where abortions decreased the most was the Midwest where abortions declined by 17 percent, in the only region of the country where the number of abortion clinics actually increased over the same time period. Iowa which increased the number of clinics providing abortion from 10 to 17 (a 70 percent increase in the number of clinics) saw a drop in abortion rates that was slightly above the national average.
Forty-six states saw declines in abortion rates between 2008 and 2011. The only states where the rate increased were Wyoming, West Virginia, New Hampshire, and Alaska. Oregon and Illinois saw sharper drops (18 percent) than Texas (17 percent), even though neither Oregon nor Illinois passed any additional anti-abortion legislation during that time period. Some conservative states like Kansas and South Dakota also saw dramatic drops in the rates of abortion, so the relationship between anti-abortion legislation and abortion rates is not necessarily predictable in either direction. What we do know however is that current rates of abortion are lower than they were under President’s Reagan or either President Bush and that they are dropping in every solidly pro-choice blue state except New Hampshire as well as in most, but not all red states.
Edited/Published by: SB