Down to 13.5/1,000 in 2011
By Randall K. O’Bannon, Ph.D., NRL Director of Education & Research
The Guttmacher Institute, the statistical research arm of the abortion industry, has just released new data from its 2011 abortion survey with very encouraging results for pro-lifers.
The new report, “U.S. Teenage Pregnancies, Births and Abortions, 2011: National Trends by Age, Race and Ethnicity,” found that the reduction in the numbers of teen abortions were a big part of the overall recent decline in abortions.
You may remember from reading NRL News Today, that in a report released two years ago, Guttmacher found the number of abortions had dropped dramatically from 2008 to 2011. The numbers fell by nearly 13% in just three years and ending up at just over a million (1,058,490) after reaching a peak of 1.6 million as recently as 1990.
The data released this month confirms the pivotal role the behavior of teenagers played in that enormous drop.
This latest report, written by Kathryn Kost and Isaac Maddow-Zimet, places the reduction of teen abortions in the larger context of declining teen pregnancy. Measuring the reduction in the number of abortions along with the declining birth rates , Guttmacher finds that fewer teens are getting pregnant and that those who do are less likely to abort. The numbers tell you this, Kost and Maddow-Zimet do not highlight that welcomed development.
The authors write that “In 2011, the teen pregnancy rate reached its lowest level in nearly 40 years.”
Guttmacher’s statistics show that the highest pregnancy rate for teenagers was in 1990, at 117.6 /1,000. The highest birth rate for those women was the following year, at 61.8/1,000.
Abortion rates for women 15-19 were also high around this time, above 40/1,000, from 1978 to 1990. Guttmacher shows them reaching a high of 44 abortions/1,000 thousand women in both 1985 and1988.
The latest numbers for teenagers are far different than what we saw in the 1980s and 1990s.
In 1985, with abortion rates at 44/1,000 and birth rates only slightly higher at 51/1,000, a pregnant teen was almost as likely to have an abortion as to give birth.
In 2011, the abortion rate for teenagers (15-19) was 13.5/1,000 women. This is only about a third of the birthrate (31.3/1,000) and it represents a decrease of 69% in the abortion rate from the peaks in 1985 and 1988.
Other figures for 2011 also show a vast difference:
· The pregnancy rate for women 15-19 has fallen to 52.4/1,000.
· Women 15-19 were responsible for 329,772 births and 142,650 abortions, both the lowest since1973.
· Total pregnancies (including a Guttmacher calculated 80,220 “fetal losses”) were 552,640, half what they were in the mid 1970s and 1980s.
Guttmacher wants to attribute these declines to recent changes in contraceptive use, particularly of what are called “LARCs” – Long Acting Reversible Contraceptives – but even if this could account for some of the latest drop, the length and depth of this decline indicate that other factors must be in play.
The decreased likelihood that a particular pregnant woman will abort her baby, reflected in significantly reduced abortion ratios, are indicative of a real change in women’s attitudes towards abortion. Abortion ratios that hovered about 45 or 46 for most of the 1980s were down in the low 30s from 2000 on (30.2 for 2011, the lowest since 1973).
Within the 15-19 age group, women 18-19 had higher birth and abortion rates than women 15-17, but both showed the same big dropoffs in abortion rates after the 1980s. Birthrates fell as well for these groups, but those these seemed to have occurred later, in the late 1990s and 2000s.
Guttmacher also looked at birth and abortion rates by race for women 15-19 from 1990 to 2011. The birthrate for whites dropped from 51.2/1,000 in 1990 to 29.1/1,000 in 2011. But abortion rates fell even more during that period, from 33.4/1,000 in 1990 to just 9.1/1,000 in 2011.
While teen black birth and abortion rates are considerably higher, they fell as well. The birth rate was 112.9/1,000 in 1990. By 2011, the birth rate for teenage black girls dropped by more than half–to 47.2/1,000.
In 1990, abortion rates for blacks teenagers were 82.9/1,000. But in 2011, they had decreased to 33.8 /1,000.
Full birth and abortion data on Hispanics is not reported until 1991 for Guttmacher. Data for that year showed a birthrate of 104.6/1,000 and an abortion rate of 39/1,000.
By 2011, the birthrate for Hispanics had more than halved, to 49.6/1,000, and the abortion rate had fallen by more than two thirds–to 12.7/1,000.
Abortion ratios showed similar declines among all these groups, showing that pregnant teens of all ages and races are now much more likely to choose birth over abortion. The pro-life movement has made a difference.
It is clear that parental involvement laws, many put in place since the 1980s, have made a tangible impact, reducing the likelihood that teenagers will turn to abortion. It also seems to be the case that this carries over into their later years, with women over 18 who are also less likely than before to choose to abort their babies.
While the effect of these laws has been seen across the board, higher abortion rates among minorities indicate there is still more work to be done in these communities.
The early instilling of a respect and reverence for life is important not just for sparing these young women the devastation of abortion in their teen years, but for years to come. It is worth noting, and something this latest data proves, that abortions and abortion rates first began falling among teens in the 1980s before the rest of the country caught up in the 1990s.
What we’ve done for teens has impacted whole generations.
 With estimates for “fetal losses” from miscarriage or stillbirth.