The abortion rate in the United States has dropped to a record lowest point since the Supreme Court first legalized the procedure in all 50 states in 1973, per a new study suggesting that new, long-acting contraceptive methods are having a significant impact in reducing unwanted pregnancies.
In 2011, there were fewer than 17 abortions for every 1,000 women, the latest year for which figures were available, according to a paper published Monday from the Guttmacher Institute. The abortion rate is down a staggering 13 percent from 2008 and a little higher than the rate in 1973, when the Supreme Court handed down its landmark Roe v. Wade decision.
The study did not examine reasons for the big drop. The authors suggested that one factor was greater reliance on new types of birth control, including intra-uterine devices such as Mirena, which can last for years and are not susceptible to user error like daily contraceptives such as condoms and birth control pills.
They also noted the economy as a contributing factor, because people tend to adhere more strictly to their birth control during harsh economic times. But they did not credit the recent wave of state laws restricting access to abortion, because most of those took place in 2011 or later, after the study.
These restrictions will surely have an impact on the numbers going forward, said Rachel K. Jones, a senior researcher at Guttmacher and lead researcher on the paper per Washington Post.
“If the abortion rate continues to drop, we can’t assume it’s all due to positive factors” such as better adherence to contraceptives, she said, calling the laws passed in 22 states “onerous.”
The report is released as tensions intensify in the long-standing debate over abortion and contraception.
Six states showed no change or increase in their abortion rates including Alaska, Maryland, Montana, New Hampshire, West Virginia, and Wyoming.