Abortion Rates Now Lowest Since Roe v. Wade, CDC Finds

The pro-life and pro-choice movements speculate about the reason for the decline.

Participants in the March for Life in Washington, D.C. in January 2016

By Liberty McArtor Published on November 27, 2018

Last week the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention revealed that fewer women are having abortions than have since the Supreme Court ruled in favor of abortion in Roe v. Wade.

The CDC has kept a record of abortions occuring in the U.S. since 1969, collecting abortion rates and ratios from all 50 states, plus Washington, D.C. and New York City. Each area offers the information voluntarily.

In 2015, the last year for which all data is available, 638,169 abortions were reported from 49 areas. That’s a 2 percent decrease from 2014, and a 24 percent decrease from 2006. The 2015 abortion rate was 11.8 abortions per 1,000 women, and the ratio was 188 abortions per 1,000 live births. Women between the ages of 15 and 44 are included in the reports.

As The Washington Post reported, abortion rates spiked after Roe v. Wade in 1973. After the 1980s, there was a gradual decline, except a short period in the late 2000s. 2015 marked the lowest numbers since abortion was legalized in the U.S.

Reasons for the Decline Unclear

“The declining abortion rate is a good sign that pro-life policies work,” Matt Lamb of Students for Life told The Stream. He believes the decreasing rates are a particular testament to state-level policies. “Many states enacted pro-life policies during the time period of this decline, in the face of a pro-abortion Obama administration,” he said.

Even those on the pro-choice side credit pro-life laws to some extent. Rachel Jones of the pro-abortion Guttmacher Institute told the Post that “decreased access to abortion services” has contributed to the decline in some states. Jones also credits “improved contraceptive use.”

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The CDC doesn’t cite clear reasons for the decline, but does recommend “increasing access to and use of effective contraception” to continue lowering abortion rates.

More laws and contraception use may not tell the whole story, however. Chuck Donovan of the pro-life Charlotte Lozier Institute noted two other potential reasons: These days, teens are less sexually active to begin with, and “pro-life views are more prevalent among the rising generation than they were 40 years ago.” (Public speculation surrounding both of these cultural phenomenons — young people’s diminishing sex lives and pro-life views — are becoming increasingly popular.)

A Shift Among Younger Americans

Such observations are consistent with CDC findings. A research summary notes that the decrease in abortions among girls between 15 and 19 is the most dramatic. The abortion rate for this age group dropped 54 percent between 2006 and 2015. The age group accounted for less than 10 percent of all reported abortions in 2015.

Abortions are also taking place at earlier gestational ages; 65.4 percent of abortions performed in 2015 happened at 8 weeks’ gestation or earlier. According to the CDC summary, “among abortions performed at ≤ 13 week’s gestation, a shift occurred toward earlier gestational ages.” Between 2006 and 2015, there was an 11 percent increase in abortions occurring at or before six weeks’ gestation. Younger Americans are generally supportive of early-term abortions, but opposed to late ones.

“Any decline of this size and duration has many causes,” Donovan said.

Lamb, who works for a group that claims, “We are the pro-life generation,” expects the numbers to keep going down. “Now that there is also a pro-life presidential administration, we look forward to the abortion rate continuing to fall and we will continue to work to abolish abortion.”

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  • Trilemma

    Regardless of the reason, this is good news. Ideally there would be no abortions, not because abortion is illegal but because nobody wants an abortion.

    • Which is usually phrased by you and your kind as no one needing to be killed because no one was concieved.

      The same excuse marxist governments loved.

  • LgVt

    At the risk of sounding overly pessimistic, I think there’s a strong chance this shows not a reduction in abortions, but rather a large-scale shift from surgical abortions, which are reported, to chemical abortions, which are not.

    • Aliya Daniella Kuykendall

      LgVt, interesting claim, but I’m not sure about that. I was just looking at Planned Parenthood’s last two annual reports, from 2015-2016 and 2016-2017. In the earlier report, Planned Parenthood reported that they performed “the lowest abortion rate since Roe v. Wade was decided.” It looks like they don’t distinguish between medication abortions and surgical abortions, yet they claim overall that abortions are at an all-time low. Also, in these two reports, they list all their services, and there’s only one listing for abortion, so no way to see the difference in rates between chemical and surgical. But we can see that the number of abortions has gone down between those two reports. Even the number of emergency contraception kits went down between those two reports. So while we know from other sources that medication abortions are on the rise, Planned Parenthood gives in their reports no reason to believe that this counteracts the overall decrease in abortions. Hope that helps.

      • Simple: people are too depressed to even fornicate and also contraception is not included in statistics because it is impossible to track.

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