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Abortion Rate at Historic Low Due to Increased Restrictions, Improved Access to Contraceptives

Laura Joszt
The abortion rate in the United States hit a historic low in 2014 with 2 likely contributing factors: improved access to contraceptives and increased restrictions to abortion services.
The abortion rate in the United States declined steadily between 2011 and 2014 to the lowest rate since abortion was legalized in 1973, according to a report from the Guttmacher Institute published in Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health. In 2014, 19% of pregnancies (excluding miscarriages) ended in abortion, which is a decline of 11% from 2011. The overall abortion rate declined 14% from 2011 to 2014.
There are 2 likely contributing factors to this reduction in the abortion rate: improved access to contraception and increased restrictions to abortion services. While the abortion rate had declined steadily from 2011 to 2014, the year 2011 represented a remarkable year when the abortion rate had dropped 13% from 2008. Leading up to 2008, the abortion rate typically declined just an average of 2% per year.
“Fewer women had abortions in 2011 than in 2008 because fewer women became pregnant when they did not want to,” authors Rachel K. Jones and Jenna Jerman wrote.
An increased use in contraceptives was responsible for some of the decline, and “increased use may have continued into more recent years.” The Affordable Care Act’s contraceptive mandate went into effect in 2012.
The decline in the abortion rate may also reflect the fact that more women might have been unable to obtain an abortion when they wanted one. Between 2008 and 2011, more than 100 abortion restrictions were enacted. And since 2011, hundreds of new restrictions, such as mandated ultrasounds and in-person counseling, were enacted. However, the authors reported no strong evidence that restrictions on access to abortion services were a main reason why there was a decline in the abortion rate.
“Abortion is an important indicator of unintended pregnancy, but it is unclear whether the most recent decline in abortion is due to fewer women’s having unintended pregnancies, more women’s being unable to access abortion services or some combination of these dynamics,” Jones and Jerman wrote.
Jones and Jerman used the Guttmacher Institute’s 2014 Abortion Provider Census to identify national and state-level information about abortion incidence to help inform policies and programs to reduce unintended pregnancies in the United States.

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