Abortion statistics

Here’s a positive update on abortion: The number of terminated pregnancies in America continues to decline and is at its lowest rate since the Roe v. Wade case in 1973.

The pro-abortion rights Guttmacher Institute recently reported that in 2017, health care facilities across the country provided a total of 862,000 abortions. There were an estimated 13.5 abortions that year for every 1,000 women aged 15-44.

The abortion rate was 14.6 in 2014 and 16.9 in 2011. This means the abortion rate has fallen by 20 percent in just six years.

The report noted that the decline has occurred in a period when a number of states, including Mississippi, have attempted to make it more difficult for a pregnant woman to get an abortion. But there does not appear to be a clear link between efforts to restrict abortion and the decline in abortion rates.

For example, abortion rates declined in nearly every state — whether or not its lawmakers tried to restrict access. And some states with more restrictions reported a higher abortion rate.

Mississippi, curiously, was among only five states with a higher abortion rate in 2017, though the figure appears to be very low compared with other states.

Guttmacher said there were 2,550 abortions at Mississippi medical clinics in 2017. The report noted that number includes women from other states who came to Mississippi, and does not include Mississippi residents who went elsewhere.

That said, the state’s abortion rate of 4.3 per 1,000 women (which is one-third the national rate) is an increase from the 2014 rate of 3.8. This is an unexpected result, given the Legislature’s and Gov. Phil Bryant’s stated determination to end abortion in the state.

Another noteworthy element of the report is the rising number of abortion clinics in Northeastern states while there are fewer such facilities in the Midwest, South and West.

Compared to 2011, the 16 states in the Census Bureau’s southern region, from Texas to Delaware, had 50 fewer abortion clinics in 2017. There were 33 fewer clinics in the Midwest over the same period and seven fewer in the West. Northeastern states, however, reported 59 more clinics than in 2011.

Assessing why the number of abortions are decreasing, Guttmacher said the birth rate has been declining at the same time. Fewer pregnant women means fewer abortions.

Increased accessibility to contraception is a likely factor in the lower number of pregnancies and abortions. Some of this may be due to the Affordable Care Act, which requires many private insurance plans to pay for contraceptives without cost to the buyer.

Here’s the long-term view: The number of abortions in America peaked at 1.6 million in 1990, and that figure has been reduced by nearly half over the last three decades.

However, 862,000 terminated pregnancies is still a tragedy. It is past time for medical research to develop a nearly foolproof method of pregnancy prevention. The best way to eliminate the abortion debate is to eliminate unwanted and unintended pregnancies.

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