By Dave Andrusko
National Right to Life has already produced an outstanding analysis of the new abortion numbers provided by the pro-abortion Guttmacher Institute. (See “New Guttmacher Study Ignores Impact of Public Debate Regarding Rights of Unborn on Abortion Rates“) Tomorrow, Dr. Randall K. O’Bannon, NRLC’s director of education, will provide NRL News Today readers with the benefit of decades’ worth of experience analyzing abortion trends.
In between I’d to add a few additional thoughts on “Abortion Incidence and Service Availability in the United States, 2011,” written by Rachel K. Jones and Jenna Jerman.
Naturally, a primary goal of Guttmacher is to deny that protective legislation had anything to do with a resumption of a decline in the number of abortions. Guttmacher estimates there were about 1.06 million abortions in 2011, a drop of 13% since 2008 and 550,000 fewer abortions than the high water mark of 1.6 million in 1990. We’ll return to this hugely important consideration momentarily.
Here are four considerations and/or conclusions to pull out.
First, the drop in abortions was not just an absolute drop in the number of abortions. The abortion rate and the abortion ratio declined as well.
The abortion rate is the number of abortions per 1,000 women aged 15-44. Guttmacher’s figure for 2011 was 16.9/1,000 women.
The abortion ratio in 2011 was 21.2 per 100 pregnancies ending in live birth or abortion.
This is vitally important because it shows that more pregnant women were likely to choose life for their unborn children than at any time before abortion was legalized in 1973.
Second, no one except Guttmacher knew exactly when it would issue its latest figures. Last month, based on recent data from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and previous reports from Guttmacher, National Right to Life estimated the number of abortions at over 56 million (see NRLC’s “The State of Abortion in the United States”: Part Three of Three. See also “Abortions top 56 million since Roe v. Wade”).
The numbers and statistics released today by Guttmacher largely line up with those estimates.
Third, Guttmacher’s analysis gives further evidence of the seemingly inexorable march toward ever-increasing number of chemical abortions. In 2011, chemical abortions (RU-486) accounted for 23%, as opposed to 17% in 2008. There are multiple advantages to the Abortion Industry, including most of all to its headmaster, Planned Parenthood.
The use of chemical abortions can and has assuaged the consciences of some physicians who would never do surgical abortions. In states which do not pass laws banning the practice, abortionists working from one central location (via teleconference—“webcam abortions”) can trigger the release of a drawer at the woman’s location, in which the abortion drugs are found. She is never actually physically examined by the abortionist.
This multiples the impact of one abortionist and means costs are dramatically cut: there is no need for the facilities that accompany surgical abortions.
Fourth, and finally, if you believe Guttmacher’s study, you’d think that practically no pro-life legislation was passed prior to 2011, ergo any decline in the incidence of abortion must be for other reasons (“nearly foolproof long-term contraceptives like intrauterine devices,” as a sympathetic New York Times article put it).
The authors did concede “Some of the new regulations undoubtedly made it more difficult, and costly, for facilities to continue to provide services and for women to access them.” So it would be up to further studies to see if protective laws had had an impact.
But this is patently misleading, as Guttmacher operatives and abortion supporters subsequently admitted in interviews. “Carol Joffe, a sociologist at the University of California, San Francisco, and a historian of abortion, said that while the effects were difficult to quantify, the anti-abortion movement had ‘been very successful at stigmatizing abortion’ and that this had most likely influenced the long-term downward trend,” according to the Times’ Erik Eckholm.
Writing for Mother Jones, Dana Liebelson and Molly Redden noted, “A few states, however, may have experienced declines related to new restrictions. Missouri’s abortion rate dropped 17 percent between 2008 and 2010, the authors note, perhaps reflecting the impact of a 2009 state law requiring women to seek in person counseling before getting an abortion.”
(The new law–which was signed in July 2010–also required that the woman be given printed information provided by the state which described the developing unborn child.)
Let’s think this through because the impact goes much further than these grudging concessions from Gold and Jerman. There are many examples of pro-life laws passed prior to 2011. The aforementioned parental involvement laws, state “Hyde” amendments, state support for alternatives-to-abortion and ultrasound laws, and women’s right to know laws, to name just five.
And, although not mentioned by Guttmacher, parental involvement laws clearly have had a major impact.
As we reported in December, the CDC numbers are not as accurate but are broken out demographically. Dr. O’Bannon wrote that the CDC reported
“that 15.1% of abortions were to teens, those aged 19 and younger. While this still represents a sizeable number of abortions, the number reflects a significant change from thirty years ago, when the CDC saw almost twice that figure (29.2%). Even as late as 2000, 19.2% of all abortions were performed on teenagers.
“This tells us that the abortion demographic is skewing older, and the stats reflect that. In 1976, when abortion had been legal for just a few years, the percentages of abortions to teenagers, women 20-24, and women 25 and over were all roughly even: 32.1%, 33.3%, and 34.6%, respectively.”
Moreover, as noted in NRLC’s analysis sent out earlier today,
“A very recent example of the public policy debate came in 2010, when Nebraska became the first state to enact the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, a groundbreaking law that provides protection for unborn children capable of feeling pain, beginning at 20 weeks fetal age. While the Nebraska legislature was considering the bill, a nationwide debate about the capacity of unborn children to feel pain began and once again refocused the country’s attention to the fact that abortion takes the life of a living human being.”
More specifically, as Julie Schmit-Albin, executive director of Nebraska Right to Life, told NRL News Today
“We have seen Nebraska’s abortion rate decline most notably in 2011 after the 2010 implementation of our ban on abortion at 20 weeks based upon an unborn child’s ability to feel pain. It sent late term abortionist LeRoy Carhart to Maryland and resulted in a 14% drop in abortions in Sarpy County in the first six months of enactment. If that’s not a direct correlation between our pain ban and the drop in abortions I don’t know what is.”
As I mentioned at the beginning, Dr. O’Bannon will offer further insights tomorrow. But the bottom line is most encouraging: the number of abortions is down and the abortion rate in the United States dropped to its lowest point since 1973 when the Supreme Court essentially legalized abortion on demand all 50 states.