The U.S. abortion rate is the lowest ever since the legalization of the procedure from the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision in 1973, according to a new study from The Guttmacher Institute, a nonprofit research organization that supports legalized abortion.
NPR reported that the abortion rate has actually been dropping for decades; it peaked in 1980 to 1981 and has been declining ever since.
So what is the biggest reason behind this steady decline? It appears to be improved access and use of birth control. Although the study didn’t directly examine the reasons behind the declining rate, the authors suggested that improved contraceptive use is likely the biggest factor, which is also supported by other experts.
“We don’t think it’s because people are having less sex,” Dr. Diane Horvath-Cosper, an obstetrician not involved in the study, told The Los Angeles Times. “It’s because people are protecting from pregnancy better than they used to.” “Fewer women had abortions in 2011 than in 2008 because fewer women became pregnant when they did not want to,” the study's researchers wrote, as reported by Vox.
Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards highlighted to NPR the recent improved rates of unintended pregnancies and teen pregnancy — which is also at an all time historic low. "It shows that we're finally doing a better job of helping women get access to birth control that's affordable and that's high-quality," she said.
The authors mentioned that abortion restrictions could also play some role in the decline in some states, but it is unclear to what extent. Kristi Hamrick, a spokesperson for the anti-abortion lobbying group Americans United for Life, emphasized new regulations to NPR, saying "these [laws] have been game-changers, and we see the abortion rate dropping in response." However, Rachel Jerman, lead author of the report, noted that since the decline was consistent across all states, "having fewer clinics didn't always translate into having fewer abortions."
Trump and the Republican leadership in Congress have vowed to get rid of the 2010 Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare, which required insurers to cover a variety of contraceptive methods. With President-elect Trump getting ready to take office, it is unclear the future of accessibility to birth control in the U.S. "We shouldn't go backwards on access to birth control," said Cecile Richards.