According to a new report from the pro-choice Guttmacher Institute, there were an estimated 862,320 abortions performed in the U.S. in 2017. That’s a nearly 20-percent drop from 2011, when Guttmacher estimated that more than 1 million American women obtained an abortion.
Guttmacher’s new report also estimates that the abortion rate (abortions per 1,000 women) dropped from 16.9 in 2011 to to 13.5 in 2017. This report confirms what Centers for Disease Control data have long shown: Since the 1980s, the abortion rate in the U.S. has dropped steadily nearly every single year. (It’s worth noting that CDC data tend to lag behind Guttmacher; it has only released U.S. abortion statistics through 2015. Also, the CDC obtains its statistics by gathering abortion data from states, and it isn’t mandatory that states report their data. Several states don’t, so the CDC’s reports likely are less accurate than Guttmacher’s estimates.)
The Guttmacher report suggests that the decline in the abortion rate is “related to declines in births and pregnancies overall” and notes that abortion restrictions might also have played a role. Some suggest that more widespread access to contraception has decreased the level of unintended pregnancy, resulting in fewer abortions, but data also show that a higher percentage of women with unintended pregnancies choose to carry them to term, so birth-control access doesn’t tell the whole story.
It is worth celebrating that the number of abortions in the U.S. seems to have dropped once again. But with abortion statistics come the risk that we view these numbers as mere data and forget that each of those 826,320 abortion procedures ended a human life. Another decline in the abortion rate is a small win, but it’s far from enough.