The Corner

Politics & Policy

Abortion Numbers Fell Again in 2012

Last week, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reported abortion statistics for 2012. Overall, the news is good for pro-lifers. Among the states consistently reporting data, abortions fell by nearly 4 percent between 2011 and 2012. Overall, the number of abortions fell in 36 of the 46 states that reported data to the CDC in both 2011 and 2012.

Declines were consistent across regions. The largest percentage declines took place in New Jersey, New Mexico, and Rhode Island – each of which saw abortion declines of over 10 percent. The largest percentage increases took place in the relatively low population states of North Dakota and Hawaii. Both of these states saw increases of around 6 percent.

More importantly, these figures indicate that the broad long-term decline in the incidence of abortion is continuing. According to data from the CDC — the number of abortions has declined in 19 of the past 22 years. Additionally, both the number of abortions and the abortion rate has declined by over 30 percent since 1990.

Of course, whenever the CDC reports a decline in the abortion rate, the mainstream media is quick to credit increases in contraceptive use. However, there is little evidence to suggest that increased contraceptive use is responsible for the long-term decline in America’s abortion rate. While surveys do find that contraceptive use is increasing, the unintended pregnancy rate has remained stable — and by some measures has actually increased since the mid 1990s.

A better explanation for the abortion decline is that a smaller percentage of unintended pregnancies ended in abortion. According to data from the Guttmacher Institute, the percentage of unintended pregnancies ending in abortion fell from 54 percent to 40 percent between 1994 and 2008. This is strong evidence that pro-life efforts to change the hearts and minds of women facing unintended pregnancies are succeeding. Pro-lifers should celebrate these abortion declines — and maintain our educational, political, and service efforts.

Michael J. New is a visiting assistant professor of social research and political science at the Catholic University of America and an associate scholar at the Charlotte Lozier Institute in Washington, D.C.

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