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U.S. Abortion Rate Drops to Lowest Point Since Roe v. Wade

Signs at the Supreme Court during the annual March for Life in Washington, D.C., January 18, 2019. (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

The number of women who have abortions in the U.S. has dropped to its lowest point since the procedure was legalized in 1973, according to a new report.

The rate of abortions was 13.5 per 1,000 women of childbearing age in 2017, down from 14.6 in 2014, and 16.9 in 2011, according to the Guttmacher Institute, an abortion research organization cited by those on both sides of the issue politically. The group releases the study every three or so years.

The latest recorded rate from 2017 is the lowest rate since the Supreme Court case Roe v. Wade declared abortion legal nationally. The rate was highest in 1980 at 29.3 abortions per 1,000 women. The 862,320 abortions performed in the U.S. in 2017 represent a 7 percent drop from 2014, according to Guttmacher.

“The anti-abortion activists will try to take credit for this decline, but the facts don’t support their argument,” said Guttmacher research scientist Rachel Jones. “This means fewer people became pregnant, not that individuals chose or were made to give birth rather than have an abortion.”

Birth control has become more widespread, the group pointed out, since the Affordable Care Act was passed, making birth control more accessible to women. The number of medication abortions has also gone up as the total number of abortions has declined, making up 39 percent of the total number in 2017.

Meanwhile, the number of clinics that perform abortions rose 2 percent between 2014 to 2017, but abortions declined in those states where clinics have closed due to new restrictions, Virginia, Ohio, Arizona, and Texas.

Pro-life groups hailed the new statistics as signaling a culture shift in the right direction.

“There are several reasons for this positive news, including factors that Guttmacher does their best to ignore,” said Chuck Donovan, president of the Charlotte Lozier Institute, the research and education institute of the pro-life Susan B. Anthony List.

“American mothers are increasingly choosing life for their children, as well as choosing to identify themselves with the pro-life cause and pro-life policies,” Donovan said in a statement shared with National Review. “This includes the broad protections for women and children being enacted at the state level such as strengthened health and safety standards for abortion facilities, limits on public funding of abortion, parental involvement laws, and increased informed consent.”

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