American women are reporting fewer abortions than ever before, with the total number falling by 2 percent year after year and by 24 percent over the course of a decade.
In the years following the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, a landmark court case that affirmed the constitutional right to access safe and legal abortions, the reported numbers of abortions increased rapidly. The report notes abortion numbers reached their highest in the 1980s before decreasing “at a slow yet steady pace” thereafter. In 2015, the most recent year that data is available, a report compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found just over 638,000 abortions were reported, down from more than 842,000 in 2006.
“The findings in this report indicate that the number, rate, and ratio of reported abortions have declined across all race/ethnicity groups but that well-documented disparities persist,” wrote the authors, noting white women had the lowest number (6.8 per 1,000 women) and black women had the highest (25.1 per 1,000).
Although women in their 20s still account for roughly one-third of all reported abortions, over the last decade this age group has also seen the biggest drop.
“These findings underscore important maternal age differences in abortion trends. Because of the high rate and proportion of abortions that occurred among women in their 20s, women in this age group have contributed substantially to overall changes,” reads the report, adding women between the ages of 30 and 40 accounted for almost 18 percent and teenagers about 10 percent.
Almost two-thirds of all abortions performed in 2015 occurred at less than eight weeks’ gestation with nearly one-quarter of them by early medical abortion, a nonsurgical option taken in the form of a pill that can induce abortion. The report did not include information from deaths or complications as it says that data is still being analyzed.
The CDC has kept track of abortion numbers since 1969, but reporting isn’t federally mandated and some collection practices are better than others. It’s worth noting that California, Maryland, and New Hampshire didn’t contribute their numbers to the report.
The report doesn’t say why abortion numbers have decreased so dramatically but some experts credit improved access to birth control for the decline in accidental pregnancies.
“The most effective way to reduce abortion rates is to prevent unintended pregnancy by improving access to consistent, effective, and affordable contraception. Lack of knowledge, misperceptions, and exaggerated concerns about the safety of contraceptive methods are major barriers to contraceptive use,” notes the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
It comes at a heated time in US abortion legislation. Earlier this week, a federal court in Mississippi blocked a statewide ban against abortions past 15 weeks while the Trump administration over the last year has put measures into place to block federal funding to organizations that offer abortion services.