The Center for Disease Control’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report today revealed a 3.0% decrease from 1996 in the number of legal induced abortions, the lowest in 20 years. MMWR also shows that 20% of women obtaining abortions in 1997 were under age 19, and 13% were between the ages of 20 and 24. Most were white and unmarried. 88% of legal abortions in 1997 were performed during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.
Pro-choice and anti-choice leaders have offered varying explanations for the trend. The CDC cited reduced access to abortion services, a reduction in the number of unwanted pregnancies, and an increased willingness to use contraception as factors for the decline, and suggested that a shift in moral attitudes toward abortion might also have contributed. Kathy Spillar, National Coordinator for the Feminist Majority Foundation, discussed the widespread use and increasing availability of contraceptives as a likely factor, as well as a shift in the percentages of women of reproductive age.
Kate Michelman, president of NARAL, attributes the low abortion rate to continued “terrorism and harassment at clinics,” but added that the lower rates are positive if indicative of improved access to contraception, according to the Kaiser Daily Health Report.