The Corner

Historically Low Abortion Rates Demonstrate Pro-Life Progress

Yesterday, the Guttmacher Institute released updated figures on the incidence of abortion in the United States, finding that the abortion rate fell by 14 percent between 2011 and 2014. A close look at the report shows that states that have enacted protective pro-life laws in recent years — such as Texas — saw above-average declines in abortion rates. Much of the report argues that increased use of contraception is largely responsible for the recent decline in the incidence of abortion.

But of all the report’s findings, the numbers on the long-term decline in the U.S. abortion rate are the most important. Guttmacher’s abortion statistics date back to 1973, and the latest report recorded the lowest-ever abortion rate in 2014. In fact, the abortion rate has fallen by more than 50 percent since it peaked in 1980. And because fertility rates and unintended-pregnancy rates have been fairly stable over time, it is difficult to argue that increased contraception use is responsible for this long-term decline in abortions.

Instead, a substantial body of academic research indicates that pro-life laws such as public-funding limits, parental-involvement laws, and properly designed informed-consent laws all work together to reduce abortion rates. Additionally, Guttmacher’s own research shows that a growing percentage of women facing unintended pregnancies choose to carry their pregnancy to term. Yesterday’s report provides additional evidence that pro-life efforts have been successful in changing hearts and minds.

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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