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U.S. abortion rate hits lowest point since Roe v. Wade

By Carole Novielli | September 18, 2019 , 04:05pm



According to a new report published by the Guttmacher Institute, abortion numbers dropped nationally by seven percent from 2014 to 2017, from 926,200 in 2014 to 862,320 in 2017. Guttmacher, Planned Parenthood’s former “special affiliate,” which publishes more comprehensive abortion numbers than the Centers for Disease Control, says the abortion rate has also dropped 8% (from 14.6 per 1,000 in 2014 to 13.5 abortions per 1,000 women aged 15–44 in 2017), to its lowest level since the Roe v. Wade decision legalized abortion in all 50 states in 1973.

The drop comes despite a two percent increase in the number of abortion facilities (Guttmacher counted 808 facilities providing abortions in 2017). The information confirms earlier 2015 CDC data (their most recent) indicating the lowest abortion numbers since Roe v. Wade. CDC’s abortion totals are significantly lower than the Guttmacher Institute’s because the organizations gather abortion data differently.

















                                               Guttmacher trends on abortion rate, 1973 to 2017 (Graph: Guttmacher Institute)

Between 2011 and 2017, according to Guttmacher:

  • The number of abortions fell by 196,000—a 19% decline from 1,058,000 abortions in 2011 to 862,000 abortions in 2017.

  • The abortion rate (the number of abortions per 1,000 women aged 15–44) fell by 20%, from 16.9 in 2011 to 13.5 in 2017.

  • The abortion ratio (the number of abortions per 100 pregnancies ending in either abortion or live birth) fell 13%, from 21.2 in 2011 to 18.4 in 2017.


















                                       Guttmacher total abortions and medication abortion 2017 (Graph: Guttmacher Institute)


Over 100,000 later abortions: 

According to Guttmacher’s report, “Seventy-two percent of clinics offered abortions up to 12 weeks’ gestation in 2014, 25% up to 20 weeks and 10% up to 24 weeks.” (There are facilities which provide abortions even later in gestation; those abortions are not specifically referenced in the report.) Guttmacher reports that two-thirds of abortions occurred at eight weeks or earlier, and the graph below (2016) gives us some indication on the numbers of later abortions. Using Guttmacher’s reported abortion numbers for 2017, we discover that over 100,000 (100,891) abortions took place in the second trimester or later.

  • 8 weeks or less (65.4%) – 563,957 abortions

  • 9-10 weeks (14.7%) – 126,761 abortions

  • 11-12 weeks (8.2%) – 70,710 abortions

  • 13-15 weeks (6.3%) – 54,326 abortions

  • 16-20 weeks (4.1%) – 35,355 abortions

  • At or greater than 21 weeks (1.3%) – 11,210 abortions






















                                                         Guttmacher 2016 abortion by trimester (Graph: Guttmacher Institute)


Abortions by Race: 

In 2017, the disproportionate abortion data on minorities remained troubling. While Guttmacher doesn’t break down the abortion rate by race (abortions per 1,000 women aged 15–44), Guttmacher does give us the percentage of abortions by race. In 2017, Guttmacher reports that, “White patients accounted for 39% of abortion procedures in 2014, black patients for 28%, Hispanic patients for 25%, and patients of other races and ethnicities for 9%.” Click here for the CDC’s most recent data (2015) on the Black, Hispanic, and White abortion rates.

Using the most recent US Census Bureau data estimates published by the Kaiser Family Foundation on race in the U.S., we estimate the following:

  • While Whites made up 61% of the population in 2017, Guttmacher data found that white women have 39% of abortions = 336,304 (estimated) annually.

  • While Blacks made up 12% of the population in 2017, Guttmacher data found that Black women have 28% of abortions = 241,450 (estimated) annually. Abortions outnumbered the leading top nine leading causes of death (241,446) for Black Americans in 2017.

  • While Hispanics made up 18% of the population in 2017, Guttmacher data found that Hispanic women have 25% of abortions = 215,580 (estimated) abortions annually. Abortions totaled far more than the top ten leading causes of death (143,829) for Hispanic Americans in 2017.

Planned Parenthood National Abortion Market Share 

Now that we have updated Guttmacher numbers, we can compare Planned Parenthood’s reported 2017 totals to Guttmacher’s. And what we find is that Planned Parenthood’s market share of abortions has steadily climbed from roughly 35% in 2014 to nearly 39% (38.5%) in 2017. While the public is often led to believe that society needs Planned Parenthood — which claims to be a health care organization — to help prevent pregnancies and reduce abortions, Planned Parenthood’s most recent 2017-2018 annual report reveals that while taxpayer funding and abortions increased there in 2017, actual health care services offered there plummeted. Planned Parenthood’s estimated abortion revenue totaled $190 million in just 2017.  This has resulted in Planned Parenthood collected a whopping $244.8 million in excess revenue over spending in just one year, according to its 2017-2018 annual report.

Why are numbers declining?

Dr. Michael J. New, visiting Assistant Professor of Political Science and Social Research at The Catholic University of America, as well as an Associate Scholar at the Charlotte Lozier Institute, gave Live Action News an indication why national abortion numbers are on the decline.

“Since the early 1980s, there has been a significant increase in the percentage of unintended pregnancies being carried to term, This shows that pro-life efforts to change hearts and minds, assist pregnant women, and pass protective laws, are all playing a key role in the long-term decline in the U.S abortion rate,” Dr. New told Live Action News.

An analysis of the report by New also revealed:

  • The report indicates that in 2017, the abortion rate was actually lower than what it was in 1973, the year of the Roe v. Wade decision. Overall, the abortion rate in 2017 is 13.5 abortions per thousand women of childbearing age.

  • The U.S. abortion rate has fallen by over 53 percent since it peaked in 1980. The Guttmacher report indicates that the U.S. abortion rate has fallen by 20 percent between 2011 and 2017.

  • The recent decline is pretty widespread. The Guttmacher report indicates that the abortion rate has declined in 45 of the 50 states between 2011 and 2017.

New notes in his Charlotte Lozier Institute analysis:

In their report, Guttmacher acknowledges that increased health and safety standards for abortion facilities are correlated with abortion rate declines in some states. However, they take considerable pains to argue that other pro-life policies have had little do to with the overall decline. … That said, the main problem with Guttmacher’s analysis is they only consider data between 2011 and 2017 — a relatively short period of time. When one considers the fact that the U.S. abortion rate is less than half of what it was in 1980 — it is evident that the efforts of pro-lifers are having a significant impact.

In a separate report, Guttmacher warns, “It is possible that the 2011–2017 decline in abortion was not as large as it appears from the Guttmacher Institute’s abortion provider census: There could have been an increase in self-managed abortions happening outside of medical facilities, which the census would be unable to capture.”

However, while the reported abortion numbers are moving in the right direction, they still represent hundreds of thousands of preborn children who die each year, and tragically, they reveal that nearly 2,400 (2,363) innocent lives are lost every day to the violence of abortion.

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