The US abortion rate continued its downward slope to reach the lowest level since 1974, according to a study published today by The Alan Guttmacher Institute (AGI). With data from 2000, the study shows that a total of 1.31 million pregnancies ended in abortion in the US – down from a high of 1.61 million in 1990. At the same time, access to abortion services decreased for women across the US – approximately one-third of American women now live in counties with no abortion services, AGI reported. “The proportion of US counties with no abortion provider has risen steadily since the early 1980s, reaching 87 percent in 2000. A third of women aged 15-44 lived in those counties, meaning they would have to travel to another county to obtain an abortion,” AGI concluded. “Nearly one in four women obtaining an abortion in 2000 traveled more than 50 miles, 8 percent traveled more than 100 miles.”
While the reason for the decline is not entirely clear, study authors point to such contributing factors as increased restrictions as well as a growing use of contraceptives including emergency contraception (EC). Emergency contraception could account for as much as 43 percent of the decline in abortions since 1994, the study cited as reported in the LA Times. “Finally this is beginning to appear as a reasonable alternative to women,” Dr. Ruth Shaper, director of women’s health services for Kaiser Permanente Northern California told the Times. While EC is available over the counter in some states such as California, the Feminist Majority Foundation’s Campus Leadership program has launched a campaign to make EC available over-the-counter nationwide.
This study also provides the first data on mifepristone use in the US since the Food and Drug Administration approved the drug in 2000. Mifepristone accounted for 6 percent of all abortions in the first half of 2001, the study concluded. Approximately one-third of all providers performed early medical abortions with mifepristone.