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‘Good news for pro-lifers’: US abortion rate continues downward trend, CDC report claims

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ATLANTA, Georgia, November 28, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) – The number of abortions in the United States along with the abortion rate has continued its downward trend, the U.S.-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicated in a report released this week. 

Overall, it’s “good news for pro-lifers,” who are seeing their efforts to stop abortion reflected in these numbers, said Dr. Michael New, one of the foremost researchers on abortion statistics in the United States. New is currently a visiting professor of political science and social research at Catholic University of America as well as an associate scholar at the Charlotte Lozier Institute and a fellow at the Witherspoon Institute.

“Both the number of abortions and the abortion rate fell by approximately two percent since 2015,” New told LifeSiteNews. 

“The decline was widespread as 33 of the 46 states that reported abortion data by state of occurrence saw their abortion numbers fall. The U.S. abortion rate has fallen by 25 percent since 2007. The U.S. abortion rate has fallen by approximately 50 percent since 1980,” he continued.  

“This shows that efforts by pro-lifers to change hearts and minds, enact protective laws, and assist women through pregnancy help centers have all been effective,” he added.

Yesterday, the CDC published an “Abortion Surveillance” detailing the number, rates, and ratio of legal abortions to live births for 2016, based on 48 reporting areas within the United States. These included New York City and all of the American states excluding California, Maryland, and New Hampshire. The District of Columbia was not one of the 48 reporting areas. The numbers include both surgical and chemical abortions. 

According to the CDC, a total of 623,471 abortions in 2016 were reported to them by the 48 areas. This is a drop from the 636,902 reported by the same areas in 2015. It is a dramatic drop from the 825,240 abortions reported in 2007. 

The abortion rate for 2016 was 11.6 per 1,000 women age 15-44. This, the CDC reported, was a decrease from the abortion rate of 11.8 per 1,000 women age 15-44 reported in 2015. Again, this was a dramatic drop from the rate of 15.6 abortions per 1,000 women age 15-44 reported in 2007. 

The abortion to live births ratio for 2016 was 186 abortions per 1,000 live births. This was a slight decrease from the ratio for 2015, which was 188 abortions per 1,000 live births. However, it was again a dramatic decrease from the ratio for 2007, which was 226 abortions per 1,000 live births.

“In 2016, all three measures reached their lowest level for the entire period of analysis (2007-2016),” the CDC stated. 

This continues a downward trend only interrupted once since the historic high of the 1980s. 

“After nationwide legalization of abortion in 1973, the total number, rate … and ratio ... of reported abortions increased rapidly, reaching the highest levels in the 1980s before decreasing at a slow yet steady pace,” the CDC explained. 

“During 2006-2008, a break occurred in the previously sustained pattern of decrease although this break has been followed in subsequent years by even greater decreases.”

Dr. New told LifeSiteNews in a September 2019 interview that abortion advocates are “spinning” the abortion numbers “very aggressively to try to make the case that pro-life policies have had little to do with the recent decline in the U.S. abortion rate.” He said that when one looks at the long-term data, a key factor in the massive decline in the U.S. abortion rate since 1980 is because a “higher percentage of unintended pregnancies are being carried to term.”

“If a higher percentage of unintended pregnancies are being carried to term, that means that pro-life efforts to (A) change hearts and minds, (B) assist pregnant women, and (C) enact protective pro-life laws have all been successful,” he said. 

The “Abortion Surveillance” also collected data on the women who underwent abortion in 2016, including age, race/ethnicity, and marital status, among other categories. 

Age of women who underwent abortion in 2016

In the data complied by the CDC from 46 areas, women age 20-24 accounted for 30 percent of all abortions done in 2016, and women age 25-29 accounted for 28.5 percent. This means that 58.5 percent of abortions were performed on women in their 20s in 2016. Women in their 20s also had the highest abortion rates in 2016 ― 19.1 per 1,000 women age 20-24 and 17.8 per 1,000 age 25-29. The majority of adolescents who had abortions in 2016 (67.8 percent of all adolescents who underwent the procedures) were 18 and 19 years old. 

No reason for the particular susceptibility of 18- and 19-year-olds to abortion was mentioned in the report. However, the good news is that “from 2007 to 2016, abortion rates decreased among all age groups, although the decreases for adolescents (67 percent and 56 percent for adolescents age <15 and 15-19 years, respectively) were greater than the decreases for women in all older age groups.” In short, there has been a dramatic decrease in teenagers having abortions since 2007. 

Girls under 15 accounted for the smallest percentage of abortions in 2016 (0.3 percent, which was 653) and women over 40 were involved in the next smallest percentage in 2016 (3.5 percent, which was 8,107). They also had the lowest abortion rates (“0.4 and 2.5 abortions per 1,000 women age <15 and ≥40 years, respectively”). 

Race/ethnicity

Abortion continues to affect disproportionately the African-American community. According to the 32 areas that reported for race/ethnicity, in 2016 non-Hispanic black women accounted for 38 percent of all abortions, non-Hispanic white women accounted for 35 percent, Hispanic women accounted for 18.8 percent, and women of other race/ethnic groups accounted for 8.2 percent. 

Non-Hispanic black women had the highest abortion rate of 26.2 abortions per 1,000 women and the highest abortion ratio of 401 abortions per 1,000 live births in 2016. Non-Hispanic white women had the lowest abortion rate of 6.3 abortions per 1,000 women and the lowest abortion ratio of 109 abortions per 1,000 live births in 2016. Hispanic women had a rate of 11.8 abortions per 1,000 women in 2016.

However, there were substantial decreases in the abortion rate for the three largest groups of women since 2007 -- a 29 percent decrease for non-Hispanic black women (from 36.7 to 26.2), a 33 percent decrease for non-Hispanic white women (from 9.4 to 6.3), and a most encouraging 44 percent decrease for Hispanic women (from 21.2 to 11.8). 

Marital status

Among the 42 areas that reported marital status, the vast majority of women who underwent abortion in 2016 (85.9 percent) were unmarried. According to the CDC, the abortion ratio was 41 abortions per 1,000 live births for married women and 380 abortions for 1,000 live births for unmarried women. The percentage of married women having abortions seems to have gone down since 2008. However, the ratio of unmarried women having abortions compared with unmarried women giving birth to babies allowed to live has gone down too. 

“Among the 29 reporting areas that provided these data for the relevant years of comparison (2007 versus 2016, 2007 versus 2011, 2012 versus 2016, and 2015 versus 2016), the percentage of abortions among unmarried women increased three percent from 2007 to 2016 (from 83.5 percent to 86.0 percent), with a larger increase from 2007 to 2011 (three percent) than from 2012 to 2016 (<1 percent),” the CDC explained.  

“Among unmarried women, the abortion ratio decreased 16 percent from 2007 to 2016 (from 390 to 326 abortions per 1,000 live births), with a larger decrease also occurring from 2012 to 2016 (10 percent) than from 2007 to 2011 (three percent). Among married women, the abortion ratio decreased 31 percent from 2007 to 2016 (from 49 to 34 abortions per 1,000 live births), with similar decreases occurring from 2012 to 2016 (13 percent) and from 2007 to 2011 (14 percent).

One interesting piece of data about married women who have abortions is that the percentage was highest among non-Hispanic women in the “Other” group (31.9 percent) than for non-Hispanic white women (16.8 percent), Hispanic women (15.3 percent), and non-Hispanic black women (7.9 percent).

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