Abortion Rates in the US at Lowest Level Since 1973

abortion rates dropAccording to the Guttmacher Institute—a reproductive health "think tank" that has been surveying abortion providers since the 1970's—the number of abortions annually in the United States has fallen to the lowest level since the Supreme Court made the procedure legal nationwide in 1973.

The researchers don't believe that this downward trend is the result of new state laws intended to restrict abortion, but suggest that the economic recession and slow recovery during the survey period may be partially responsible, as evidenced by the 9% decline in birthrates during that same period. With less economic stability, couples may be purposefully deciding to avoid pregnancy. As the rate of intentional pregnancies declines, the normal 5% of abortions following intended pregnancies would also be expected to drop off proportionally.

More access to effective long-term contraceptives such as the IUD from publicly-funded clinics has increased, from 4% to 11%. Because these types of non-prescription birth control are reliable, fewer unintended pregnancies were noted during the study period. And the study also suggests that women may be turning to the off-label drug Misoprostol to terminate their pregnancy outside of a clinical setting.

Misoprostol is an ulcer drug that can end an early pregnancy. It is not clinically approved for use alone, but rather is most commonly combined with an approved medication abortion drug such as Mifepristone. If taken alone, Misprostol will cause termination of an early pregnancy and because this usually occurs outside of a medical setting, the survey numbers on abortions don't reflect these instances and may be artificially low. All of the data given to the Guttmacher Institute is provided on a voluntary basis by the women that they survey.