Abortion rates lowest since 1973

Increased awareness and preventative measures resulted in a 13 percent decline in abortion rates over 4 years

Many would argue that abortion has not had a national stage like the one it boasts of today since the days of Roe v. Wade in 1973 when the practice was legalized in all 50 states. According to new reports from the Guttmacher Institute, a leading voice in abortion trends, abortion has reached an all-time low, decreasing by 13 percent between 2008 to 2011. Both sides of the debate, pro-life and pro-choice, claim the numbers as a victory.

In The Washington Post, those a part of Conservative groups such as Americans United for Life have been documented as saying, “This is a post-sonogram generation,” claiming that, “There is an increased awareness throughout our culture of the moral weight of an unborn baby.”

At the same time, the Guttmacher Institute claims that the decline has nothing to do with sonograms or a moral turnaround. Rather, it is a combination of increased contraception use and fewer pregnancies.

To both sides of the aisle, I say, you are accurate. Though only one side can be morally correct, abortion is painted with a palette of black and white, often leaving a morally gray result. While I may see abortion as plainly immoral, an absolute truth is foreign to our postmodern society. Both sides see it as their job to prove which is the moral high ground. How can both sides be correct?

The two factions, pro-life and pro-choice, cannot both be morally right. However, they can both be accurate statistically. When an issue gets such national and repetitive attention, everyone listens. While I do not necessarily think anyone became pro-life because they saw a picket sign, I do think it may, at least, have caused them to think twice about their decision.

A slight drop in abortion providers, a success of the pro-life movement, may have minimally contributed to the decrease in abortion.

Rachel Jones, the lead author of the Guttmacher Report, agrees with the correlation in trends and documented the findings in her article “Abortion Incidence and Service Availability In the United States.”

“Contraceptive use improved during this period, as more women and couples were using highly effective, long-acting reversible contraceptive methods,” Jones said.

In 1981, the abortion rate was a staggering 29.3 abortions per 1,000 women. At that time, we had neither the preventative technology nor the pro-life faction we have today.

The success of the pro-life movement has been in establishing the moral weight abortion carries. Equally so, couples have become more proactive, choosing to use preventative measures prior to pregnancy. The abortion debate, from both sides, has had an impact on our society.

There is yet one other catalyst to the decline: the economy. As Jones asserts, “… The recent recession led many women and couples to want to avoid or delay pregnancy and childbearing.”

According to Guttmacher, the abortion rate among higher-income women decreased by 28 percent, while it increased 18 percent among poor women. In many cases, those of upper socioeconomic status can afford more preventative care, giving them a broader range of options than women in lower economic brackets. This research does support the notion that more women, in fact, are using contraceptives.

The long-term effects of the recent Republican-led restrictions on abortions, as well as the ever-delayed Affordable Care Act mandates, have yet to be seen. Regardless, the debate will continue. The slight decline in abortion, as well as the uptick in proactive prevention, is encouraging to the pro-life movement.

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