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Abortion rates fall to lowest since Roe v. Wade: report

Posted: 5:16 PM, Jan 17, 2017
Updated: 2017-01-17 17:16:50-05

The abortion rate in the U.S. has fallen to its lowest level since Roe v. Wade legalized the procedures nationwide in 1973, according to a report by the Guttmacher Institute .

Abortion rates declined to 14.6 percent in 2014, the most recent year for which data is available, the institute that supports legalized abortion  found .

That’s 14.6 abortions per 1,000 women of childbearing age, the lowest rate since the landmark Supreme Court decision.

Another notable finding: the total number of abortions fell below 1 million for the first time since the 1970s in 2013. That rate declined further in the following year, when 926,000 abortions were reported, according to Guttmacher. The abortion rate peaked at 1.6 million in 1990.

The findings prompted mixed reactions. Supporters of Planned Parenthood, along with the organization’s president Cecile Richards, point to increased efforts to provide better contraception for women as one of the major reasons for the decline in abortions.

Richards, who is preparing for a fight with the incoming Trump administration, told NPR  the historically low teen pregnancy rate along with declining rates in unintended pregnancy  also contribute to lower abortion rates.

But abortion opponents interpreted the data differently, saying the report instead shows that state-by-state restrictions are working. They pointed to new regulations on clinics and laws requiring patients to undergo an ultrasound before agreeing to an abortion as playing a role in the decline.

A spokesperson from the anti-abortion group  Americans United for Life told NPR she has her doubts about the findings, but accepts the overall result.

Still, a Guttmacher researcher said despite restrictions, abortions declined in every state and access to contraception improved. The declining birthrate suggests more women are preventing unwanted pregnancies, the researcher told NPR .

“Abortion is going down, and births aren’t going up,” she said.

But the data may still mean that some women who want abortions don’t have access. The researcher told NPR there is a chance the abortion rate is declining due to women not being able to locate or access a clinic to have an abortion legally performed.

Overall, though, the Guttmacher researchers believe the rate is declining mostly due to a lower rate of unintended pregnancies and increased access and use of contraception.

A majority of Americans consider themselves to be in favor of legal and accessible abortions, according to a 2015 Gallup poll .