US Catholic Faith in Real Life

Abortion rates hit lowest level since 1973

By Elizabeth Lefebvre | Print this pagePrint | Email this pageShare

According to a new study from the Guttmacher Institute, abortion levels in the United States are at the lowest rate we have seen since 1973. The study surveyed data from 2008 to 2011 and found that in 2011, there were 16.9 abortions per 1,000 women between 15 and 44, or the lowest rate the group has seen since the year that Roe v. Wade legalized abortion. The rate has dropped 13 percent since 2008, and is down significantly from its peak of 29.3 in 1980. The rate dropped in all regions of the country, with 44 individual states reporting that their rate had decreased.

Though the study was not designed to investigate the reasons why abortion levels have declined, it does offer a few insights:

  • The decline is likely not related to the most recent rounds of anti-abortion legislation. Most of the surge in state legislation restricting abortions began during 2011, so it wouldn’t have been included with this data. That’s not to say that the anti-abortion laws enacted within the last few years (205 laws passed between 2011 and 2013) haven’t succeeded in reducing abortions; just that these laws were not in place during the time period of this study.
  • The total number of abortion providers remained about the same. Providers declined by 4 percent, and clinics by just one percent.
  • The decline corresponds to a national downward trend in overall pregnancies and birth rates. The study suggests that this could be due to both an increased use in contraception, as well as the economic recession discouraging pregnancy.

This is mostly good news, though Catholics might find the increased use of contraception to be cause for concern. But as we saw with last month’s revamped March for Life, there are plenty of signs that positive steps are in place to continue using holistic approaches to see the number of abortions continue to decrease.