The ‘why’ behind new abortion stats


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Abortion rates in the United States have declined to their lowest levels since 1974, according to a report released today. However, Latina and black women obtain abortions at rates three and five times higher, respectively, than white women -- a reflection of income, according to the authors of the report from the Guttmacher Institute, an organization that conducts research, policy analysis and public education of sexual and reproductive health issues.

A major factor influencing abortion rates, said the authors of the report, is access to affordable contraception and improved contraceptive technology.


‘Behind virtually every abortion is an unintended pregnancy. And because women of color are much more likely to experience unintended pregnancies than any other group, they are also more likely to seek and obtain abortions,’ said Rachel Jones, senior research associate at the Guttmacher Institute. ‘Previous Guttmacher research has found that unintended pregnancy and abortion rates are also increasing among poor and low-income women.’

Nationwide abortion rates have fallen 33% from a peak of 29 abortions per 1,000 women in 1980 to 20 per 1,000 in 2004. Abortions have also declined significantly in teenagers. The authors of the report state that teen abortion rates began falling ‘long before abstinence-only sex education programs began receiving federal funding’ and is attributable to increased use of contraceptives and better contraceptive methods.

The report comes at a time when reproductive healthcare is a topic of debate in Washington. Some educators have attacked the Bush administration’s funding of abstinence-only sex education in schools, citing studies that show the approach doesn’t work. On another front, reproductive-health experts are battling a proposal that would require any healthcare entity that receives federal financing to certify that none of its employees are required to assist in any medical service they find objectionable. This could mean abortion, emergency contraception, sterilization and contraceptives.

You can access the report at the Guttmacher website.

- Shari Roan