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Abortion rate in US is lowest its been in decades


John Burger - published on 11/22/18 - updated on 11/22/18

One expert cites the fact that young people are more pro-life now than in decades

The abortion rate in the United States is about half of what it was in 1980, according to new data released by the federal government.

Fewer U.S. women are having abortions than at any time since Roe v. Wade, the Washington Post said, reporting on government figures released Wednesday.

“In 2015, the most recent year for which data is available, a total of 638,169 abortions were reported, a decrease of 2 percent from 652,639 abortions in 2014,” the newspaper reported, citing a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “The abortion rate was 11.8 abortions per 1,000 women ages 15-44 in 2015, compared with 12.1 in 2014 and 15.9 in 2006.

That’s a far cry from 1990, when, in whole numbers, there were more than 1.4 million abortions performed nationwide. The abortion rate hit a high in 1980 when it was 29.3 per 1000.

The CDC does not offer any explanations for the drop in the abortion rate. But Chuck Donovan, president of the Charlotte Lozier Institute, the research arm of Susan B. Anthony List, which opposes abortion, pointed out that a higher percentage of women today decide to carry an unexpected pregnancy to term. In addition, Donovan said, teenagers are less sexually active and with fewer partners and pro-life views are more prevalent among young people than they were 40 years ago.

Rachel Jones, principal research scientist for the Guttmacher Institute, an organization that supports legal abortion, on the other hand, touted the contribution of contraceptives.

“Analyses have suggested that improved contraceptive use played a role in the long-term declines,” Jones told the Post. “In some states, decreased access to abortion services contributed, as well.”

Nevertheless, the CDC report reveals significant variations by age, race and geographic region that some observers will find troubling

  • Women in their 20s accounted for nearly 60 percent of all abortions. The abortion rate was 19.9 for women ages 20-24 and 17.9 for ages 25-29.
  • African-American women had the highest abortion rate at 25.1 per 1,000, while caucasion women had the lowest rate, at 6.8 abortions per 1,000 women.
  • New York State has the highest rate in the nation, at 23.1 abortions per 1,000, while South Dakota has the lowest, at 2.8.

“The findings in this report indicate that the number, rate, and ratio of reported abortions have declined across all race/ethnicity groups but that well-documented disparities persist,” Tara C. Jatlaoui, from the CDC’s division of reproductive health, and co-authors wrote.


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