Long, steady decline in U.S. abortion rate ended during recession

abortion providers

A recent study implies that a decline in the U.S. abortion rate lasting more than two decades was interrupted by the recession. Image: CC dreamsjung/Flickr

The U.S. abortion rate has steadily declined for more than two decades since it peaked in 1990. A recent study has shown the decline in the U.S. abortion rate leveled off and slightly increased from 2005 to 2008. Medical experts identified the recession as the root cause of the halt in the declining abortion rate.

U.S. abortion statistics

The U.S. abortion rate peaked in 1990, when it reached 1.61 million known procedures. A survey of abortion providersconducted periodically by the Guttmacher Institute since 1975 recorded 1.21 million abortions in the U.S. in 2005, the lowest number since 1976. The abortion rate for ages 15-44 peaked in 1981 at 29.3 abortions per 1,000 women. By 2005 that rate had dropped to 19.4 abortions per 1,000 women — the market rate since 1974. A new study released Jan. 11 showed that abortions in the U.S. rose 0.5 percent to 1.212 million from 2005 to 2008. The abortion rate increased 1 percent to 19.6 per 1,000 women aged 15-44.

Recession’s affects reached into the womb

The abortion survey’s authors suggested that the recession played a role in the slight increase in abortion statistics. The rate of lower-income women, who are more likely to have abortions, increased. Many poor women already have children they are struggling to take care of. Rather than adding to their hardship, many skip paying bills to raise the $400 to $600 cost of an abortion. There was also no increase in contraceptive use between the 2005 and 2008 surveys. Plus, a steady decline in teenage pregnancies, which had driven the declining abortion rate, also leveled off and remained flat between 2005 and 2008.

Harassment of abortion providers

Harassment of abortion providers by anti-abortion groups has also increased along with the U.S. abortion rate. The number of non-hospital abortion providers performing up to 400 abortions a year reporting anti-abortion harassment increased from 82 percent in 2000 to 89 percent in 2008. the Guttmacher Institute said the halt in abortion decline means access to contraceptives must be increased, as well as safe abortion services. About 87 percent of U.S. counties had no abortion provider in 2008.


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