Good news! The US abortion rate fell 5 percent between 2008 and 2009.
Last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published the details for 2009, the most recent year for which statistics are available, and noted that this was the biggest one-year decline in at least a decade.
Here’s what the CDC had to say:
In 2009, 784,507 legal induced abortions were reported to CDC from 48 reporting areas. The abortion rate for 2009 was 15.1 abortions per 1,000 women aged 15–44 years and the abortion ratio was 227 abortions per 1,000 live births.
Compared with 2008, the total number and rate of reported abortions for 2009 decreased 5% and the abortion ratio decreased 2%. The change from 2008 to 2009 represented the largest single year decrease in the total number and rate of reported abortions for the entire period from 2000 to 2009. Additionally, from 2000 to 2009 the number, rate, and ratio of reported abortions decreased 6%, 7%, and 8%, respectively, to the lowest levels for this entire period.
It’s interesting to note that states report abortion numbers to the federal government, but it is voluntary, and California, Delaware, New Hampshire and Maryland chose not to do so. To compensate for this, even though experts estimated there are more than 1 million abortions nationwide each year, the CDC rounded that number down to about 785,000 in 2009.
As a woman, I am heartened to read of this decline. The decision to have an abortion is a harrowing one, undertaken usually in desperate circumstances, and certainly not a choice that any woman would relish having to make. So this is good news.
But what is the reason for this decline?
The recent limitations on access to abortion imposed by many states might seem like an obvious reason, but most of these misogynistic laws have been adopted in the past two years and so could not have been instrumental in this decline.
Others have suggested that the economy has played a big part: that American couples have become more careful about using contraceptives, since they cannot afford to become pregnant.
Still others have found a better explanation in the contraceptives women are using.
From The Washington Post:
A study published earlier this year looked at the usage of long-acting, reversal contraceptives, methods like interuterine devices, which tend to have much higher efficacy rates than birth control pills (in short, there’s a lot less room for user error).
That research, published in the journal Fertility and Sterility, found that use of long-acting contraceptives tripled between 2002 and 2009. Most of that increase happened, however, in the last two years. The proportion of contraceptive users using this method increased from 2.4 percent in 2002 to 3.7 percent in 2007. Between 2007 and 2009, though, it shot up to 8.5 percent.
The growing use of IUDs, which are T-shaped plastic sperm-killers that a doctor inserts into a woman’s uterus, does indeed sound like a more plausible explanation for the drop in abortions, or at least a contributing factor.
Here are a few more findings from the CDC report:
-The majority of abortions are performed by the eighth week of pregnancy, when the fetus is about the size of an apricot.
-White women had the lowest abortion rate, at about 8.5 abortions per 1,000 women of child-bearing age; the rate for black women was about four times that. The rate for Hispanic women was about 19 per 1,000.
-About 85 percent of those who got abortions were unmarried.
Although there is no definitive proof as to exactly the reasons for this decline, the correlation is clear: the rate of abortions dropped at the same time that the use of better contraceptives increased.
Another possible factor is the availability of the morning-after pill, which has been increasingly easier to get. It came onto the market in 1999 and in 2006 was approved for non-prescription sale to women 18 and older. In 2009 the age was lowered to 17.
What do you think?
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