The number of abortions performed in the United States dropped to 1.2 million in 2005 -- the lowest level since 1976, according to a new report.
The number of abortions fell at least in part because the proportion of women ending their pregnancies with an abortion dropped 9 percent between 2000 and 2005, hitting the lowest level since 1975, according to a nationwide survey.
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The report did not identify reasons for the drop in abortions, but the researchers said it could be caused by a combination of factors.
"It could be more women using contraception and not having as many unintended pregnancies. It could be more restrictions on abortions making it more difficult for women to obtain abortion services. It could be a combination of these and other dynamics," said Rachel K. Jones of the Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive-health research organization, which published the report in the March issue of the journal Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health.
Whatever the reasons, the trend was welcomed by abortion opponents and abortion rights advocates.
"This study shows that prevention works, and that's what we provide in our health centers every day," said Cecile Richard of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America. "At the end of the day, Americans of all stripes believe that we need to do more to prevent unintended pregnancy and make health care affordable and accessible."
Said Randall K. O'Bannon of the National Right to Life Committee: "It's still a massive number, but it's moving in the right direction." He added that at least some of the drop may be the result of changing attitudes.
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The report was based on a survey, conducted regularly since the 1970s, of all abortion providers known to the Guttmacher Institute. It is considered one of the most authoritative sources of data on abortions in the United States. The latest survey, of 1,787 providers, was conducted in 2005 and was the first since 2000.
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The total number of abortions among women ages 15 to 44 declined from 1.3 million in 2000 to 1.2 million in 2005, an 8 percent drop that continued a trend that began in 1990, when the number of abortions peaked at more than 1.6 million, the survey found. The last time the number of abortions was that low was 1976, when slightly fewer than 1.2 million abortions were performed.
The abortion rate fell from 21.3 per 1,000 women ages 15 to 44 in 2000 to 19.4 in 2005, a 9 percent decline. That is the lowest since 1974, when the rate was 19.3, and far below the 1981 peak of 29.3.
The abortion rate varies widely around the country, tending to be higher in the Northeast and lower in the South and Midwest. The rate in the District dropped 20 percent but remained higher than that of any state at 54.2. Virginia's rate fell 9 percent, to 16.5, while Maryland's rate rose 8 percent, to 31.5.
The proportion of pregnancies ending in abortion also declined, falling from 24.5 percent in 2000 to 22.4 percent in 2005 -- a 9 percent drop and down from a high of 30.4 in 1983.
Read it all here.
A full copy of the study can be found here.
What is promising about the study is that it appears that the rate and number of abortions are dropping despite little decrease in access to abortion services. This means that the reason for the drop has to do more with the success of prevention programs and the decisions of women to not abort.
As you can see from the chart above, Arizona,had a three percent drop in the abortion rate from 2000 to 2005, to a rate of 16 percent--which is lower than the national rate of 19.4 percent. There was, however, an increase in the rate between 2004 and 2005.