State-by-state survey concludes 12% decline in abortions since 2010

By Dave Andrusko

abortiondecline3A survey by the Associated Press of the health departments of the 45 states that compile abortion data on a comprehensive basis concludes that there has been a 12% decrease in the number of abortions since 2010. [1]

According to the AP’s David Crary

With one exception, the data was from either 2013 or 2014 — providing a unique nationwide gauge of abortion trends during a wave of anti-abortion laws that gathered strength starting in 2011.

All states, with the exceptions of Louisiana and Michigan, experienced a reduction. In both cases, both sides to the abortion debate attribute the increase to an influx of women from Texas and Ohio, respectively. The numbers include both surgical abortions and chemically-induced (“RU-486”) abortions.

Pro-abortionists as expected, attribute the decline to contraception, particularly “long-lasting options,” and to abortion clinic closures.

Pro-lifers point out that the decrease occurred in states that have passed such measures as the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, laws that require abortion clinics to meet more stringent safety standards, and a requirement that abortionists have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital in cases of medical emergencies—and states that did not.

Pro-lifers offer a variety of explanations, grounded in the direct and indirect impact of the undeniable fact that awareness of unborn life is an all-time high, which works hand in glove with the influence of hundreds of protective pro-life laws.

Back to the AP survey: Crary writes

One major factor has been a decline in the teen pregnancy rate, which in 2010 reached its lowest level in decades. There’s been no official update since then, but the teen birth rate has continued to drop, which experts say signals a similar trend for teen pregnancies.

But the reality is more complicated, as Dr. Randall K. O’Bannon, director of education for National Right to Life, has explained.

The “2010” reference undoubtedly is to “U.S. Teenage Pregnancies, Births and Abortions, 2010: National and State Trends by Age, Race and Ethnicity” written by Guttmacher Institute researchers Kathryn Kost and Stanley Henshaw. The 28-page analysis of data showed declining pregnancy, birth, and abortion rates across the board among teens of all ages, races, and ethnic groups in the U.S., as a whole and in individual states.

Here’s Dr. O’Bannon’s analysis of the report from the one-time special research affiliate of Planned Parenthood that now serves as the research arm for the abortion and “family planning” industry. Guttmacher

is not about to give any credit to pro-life legislation for a 2010 teenage abortion rate of 14.7 abortions per 1,000 women, “the lowest since abortion was legalized and 66% lower than its peak in 1988 (43.5/1,000 women).”

In a press release put out along with the report, lead author Kathryn Kost called the decline in pregnancy rate “great news.” She added,

“Other reports had already demonstrated sustained declines in births among teens in the past few years; but now we know that this is due to the fact that fewer teens are becoming pregnant in the first place. It appears that efforts to ensure teens can access the information and contraceptive services they need to prevent unwanted pregnancies are paying off.”

One can grant that all other things being equal, anything that, in theory, reduces the pregnancy rate–contraception, abstinence, disease, sterilization–would probably lower both birth and abortion rates. But what does a closer look at the numbers compiled by Guttmacher say?

If birth rates were down only because of increased abortion rates, or even if pregnancy and birth rates were falling faster than abortion rates that would not be good news.

But while showing real declines in teen pregnancy and birth rates, the data presented here indicate that something further is going on with regard to teen abortion than there just being fewer pregnancies.

The high for teen pregnancy rates was 1990 when there were 116.9 teen pregnancies for every 1,000 teens (aged 15-19 for Guttmacher’s statistical purposes). By 2010, the teen pregnancy rate had dropped by half (50.9%) to 57.4 per 1,000 teens. This means that while close to 12% of teens became pregnant in 1990, only about 6% did in 2010.

How about the teen birth rate? That dropped from a high of 61.8/l,000 teen births in 1991 to 34.4/ l,000 in 2010. That represents a decline of 44.3%, a somewhat smaller decline than the 50.9% seen for teen pregnancy, but still very, very substantial.

But notice that the teen abortion rate fell the most of all. The high (in both 1985 and 1988) was 43.5 abortions/l,000 teens. In 2010 it had dropped a whopping 66.2% to 14.7 abortions/1,000 teens!

Conclusion? That in addition to the other factors driving down teen pregnancy rates, something more is needed to explain why fewer teens are aborting and choosing to give birth to their babies.

Guttmacher does not wish to credit parental involvement laws (though it vaguely acknowledges “cultural attitudes toward sexual behavior and childbearing). But it seems hard to dismiss the impact of these laws and others such as waiting periods, informed consent, and the like.

We shouldn’t ignore the educational role of laws like the ban on Partial-Birth Abortions, which was debated and discussed for many years right in the middle of the time period the number of abortions declined. The way technology like ultrasound and a proliferation of fetology texts and videos made the humanity of the unborn more common knowledge should not be overlooked, either.

What other explanations are there? The springing up of so many crisis pregnancy centers (also known as Pregnancy Resource Centers) over this time frame, offering these teens positive and practical alternatives to abortion, also surely had an impact.

O’Bannon addressed what the change in the overall 2011 abortion ratio signifies in another article that appeared in NRL News Today.

While the abortion rate measures the general prevalence of abortion in culture, the abortion ratio specifically looks at the likelihood that a woman who is pregnant will abort.

Though calculated somewhat differently by Guttmacher and the Centers for Disease Control, both essentially balance the number of abortions against the number of births. A higher number means more pregnant women are aborting, a lower number means more are giving birth.

According to Guttmacher, there were 21.2 abortions for every 100 pregnancies ending in abortion or live birth in 2011. This is also the lowest ratio since 1973, the first year Roe was in effect. It was 30.4 in 1983 and was as high as 25.1 as recently as 1998.

This is important not just because it means fewer abortions, which we’ve already seen. It also is an indicator that we have fewer abortions not simply because of population shifts or declines, or just because there are fewer pregnancies overall, but because there are real behavioral changes, that pregnant women are more likely to choose life.

And that’s certainly welcome news.

[1] The five states that do not collect comprehensive abortion data are California, Maryland, New Hampshire, New Jersey, and Wyoming.