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Abortion rates decline in the United States

Researchers suggest that improved contraceptive use, not a decrease in providers or legal restrictions, were likely the cause



Results from a recent report by the Guttmacher Institute indicate that the abortion rate continued to decline through 2011, without evidence that the drop was related to the decrease in providers or to restrictions implemented between 2008 and 2011.1

Results of the study
Researchers from the Guttmacher Institute estimate 1.1 million abortions were performed in the United States in 2011, representing a drop of 13% since 2008 (16.9 vs 19.4 per 1,000 women ages 15–44).

Compared with 2008, 2011 data show a 4% decline in the number of abortion providers, and a 1% reduction in the number of abortion clinics. Early medication abortions accounted for a larger proportion of nonhospital abortions in 2011 than in 2008 (23% versus 17%, respectively). Of the 106 new abortion restrictions implemented during the 2010–2011 study period, few or none appeared to be related to state-level patterns in abortion rates or number of providers, according to the study authors.1

The report is based on abortion statistics compiled annually by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Although the data do not include California, they can be used to illustrate trends, say the researchers.1

No evidence was found to indicate the overall drop in abortion incidence was related to the decrease in providers or to abortion restrictions implemented between 2008 and 2011. The national abortion rate is in decline, the researchers conclude. In fact, they say significantly fewer pregnancies, births, and abortions happened in 2011 than in 2008, partly because of an improvement in contraceptive use.

“If fewer women were experiencing unintended pregnancies because they were using more effective methods, or were using methods more consistently, this would suggest that—after a decade of stalled progress—the United States has made headway in the public health goal of reducing the rate of unintended pregnancy.”1

The study authors add, “Because state legislatures continued to debate and enact more restrictive abortion measures throughout 2011, 2012, and 2013, future research will need to examine whether and to what extent these laws affect abortion incidence and access to services.”1

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