A Guttmacher Institute study released last week reveals that the abortion rate in the United States is at its lowest rate since 1973, when the Supreme Court recognized a woman’s right to an abortion in Roe v. Wade.

“Abortion Incidence and Service Availability in the United States, 2011″ by Rachel Jones and Jenna Jerman, asserts that there were only 16.9 abortions per 1,000 women aged 15-44 in 2011, and a 13 percent decrease in the rate of abortions in the United States between 2008 and 2011. The highest abortion rate occurred in 1981, at 29.3 per 1,000 women.

Although the authors did not examine causes of the recent decline in abortion, they detailed some possible links. “The decline in abortions coincided with a steep national drop in overall pregnancy and birth rates,” said lead author Rachel Jones. “Contraceptive use improved during this period, as more women and couples were using highly effective long-acting reversible contraceptive methods, such as the IUD. Moreover, the recent recession led many women and couples to want to avoid or delay pregnancy and childbearing.”

The authors ruled out a negative effect by the high number of abortion restrictions making their way through state legislatures, because many of the restrictions were not introduced or implemented until their study ended in 2011, and the decline occurred in all but six states.

The study also found that the proportion of early medication abortions – often safer and cheaper than later term abortions – increased during this time period. “Clearly, the availability of medication abortion does not lead women to have more abortions,” Jones said. “However, it has likely helped women obtain abortion care earlier in pregnancy, as evidenced by a shift toward very early abortions.”

Data for the study was collected through questionnaires mailed to known abortion providers. This is the Guttmacher Institute’s 16th census of abortion providers in the US.

Media Resoruces: Guttmacher Institute 2/3/14; Washington Post 2/2/14; Feminist Newswire 1/7/14

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