February 4, 2014 ( – As media reports extol the nation's lowest abortion rate since 1973, pro-life advocates say the Guttmacher Institute's analysis is flawed – and that 1.06 million abortions a year is nothing to celebrate.

A new report by the institute, which was long institutionally affiliated with Planned Parenthood, announced that the nation had fewer abortions in 2011 than any time since the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision legalized abortion nationwide.

“Between April 2012 and May 2013, we surveyed the known universe of abortion providers in the United States,” the report, entitled “Abortion Incidence and Service Availability in the United States, 2011“, said. They contacted 2,288 abortionists and “made our own estimates for the remaining 474 facilities, usually relying on prior abortion census results.”

Authors Rachel Jones and Jenna Jerman found that 21.2 percent of all pregnancies in the United States ended in abortion in 2011.


The number of abortions and abortion rate decreased 13 percent, or about four-to-five percent a year, from 2008 to 2011.

That is the lowest number of abortions in U.S. history, a figure that has generally declined since 1973, when there were more than 1,556,500 abortions.

“While overall fewer unborn children are being killed by abortion, the Guttmacher report tragically finds that more than one in five pregnancies ends in abortion and takes the life of a living unborn child,” said Carol Tobias, president of the National Right to Life Committee.

The abortion rate fell in 2011 to 16.9 abortions per 1,000 women ages 15-44, down from 29.3 in 1981. It was the lowest rate since 1973, when the abortion rate stood at 16.3.

The study's lead author denied the abortion rate fall had anything to do with more restrictive abortion laws or abortion providers closing their doors.

“Our study did not find evidence that the national decline in abortions during this period was the result of new state abortion restrictions,” nor “linked to a drop in the number of abortion providers during this period,” said Jones.

But pro-life leaders say her analysis is flawed.

“Abortion rates are directly connected to the number of abortion providers,” Cheryl Sullenger, senior policy analyst at Operation Rescue, told “Abortion rates were lowest in states where there were the fewest abortion providers.”

Sullenger, whose organization closely follows the number of abortionists and abortion facilities, said the number of abortionists who have gone out of business since the reporting period may indicate a further drop in abortions.

“The report stated that there were 839 [abortion facilities in the United States] in 2011, representing a one percent drop,” Sullenger said. “Our own survey shows that there are 581 surgical abortion clinics today. That represents an amazing 31 percent decrease in the number of abortion clinics in just two years.”

The Guttmacher report seems to lend some credence to Sullenger's assessment. Abortion facilities other than hospitals account for 96 percent of abortions. “The closure of even one facility that is unable to meet [state] regulations has the potential to affect several hundred, or even several thousand, women,” it states.

“That means women find other ways of coping with the issues they face when an abortion clinic is not marketing abortions to them in their communities,” Sullenger told LSN. “When abortion clinics close, the lives of babies and women are saved.”

Observers also doubt the report's assertion that legal advances from 2008-2011 made little difference. Jones and Jerman count 44 new laws from 2008-10, before a flurry of laws swept the nation's legislatures in 2011 – a movement that continues today. They say since the bulk of the laws went into effect in late 2011, they likely did little to reduce abortion numbers.

“This Guttmacher report bends over backwards in trying to deny that record-setting pro-life legislation has made tremendous strides in curbing abortions in the United States,” said Dr. Janice Shaw Crouse, executive director and senior fellow of Concerned Women for America’s Beverly LaHaye Institute.

The authors note that many state laws restricted late-term abortion, while “the overwhelming majority of abortions occur in the first trimester.”

But they concede some laws were effective. “For example, in 2009 Missouri implemented a law that required women to make an in-person visit for counseling at least 24 hours prior to an abortion,” they write. “That state’s abortion rate dropped 17% between 2008 and 2010, possibly reflecting, at least in part, that fewer women could make the additional visit.”

Americans United for Life President Charmaine Yoest said, “The truth is that these common-sense limits on abortion protect women and their unborn children from abortion industry abuses.”

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Analysts expect abortion rates to continue to drop, as statistics show that states have passed more pro-life laws in the last two years than in the preceding decade. States enacted 189 such laws from 2000-10, but the rate surged to 205 new laws since 2011.

Instead of these laws or the reduced number of doctors willing to terminate an unborn child, the Guttmacher Institute credited “improved” contraceptive use for the falling abortion rate, especially the more widespread employment of “long-acting reversible contraceptive methods, such as the IUD.”

The Obama administration has also promoted the use of the IUD which, like all long-acting contraceptives, may also act as an abortifacient.

Planned Parenthood seized upon the report to promote the HHS mandate, which requires employers to furnish female employees with contraceptives, sterilizations, and abortion-inducing drugs without a co-pay.

“This report comes just as some politicians and corporations are trying to make it harder for women to get birth control by chipping away at the historic benefit in the Affordable Care Act that requires insurance plans to cover birth control without a copay,” said Cecile Richards, President of Planned Parenthood. “Access to birth control is a health care issue, an economic concern, and a matter of basic justice.”

Crouse said Planned Parenthood had ignored another source of the reduction in unplanned pregnancies: abstinence-only education courses. “Our young women are benefiting as fewer are engaging in too-early sex, fewer are choosing abortion, fewer doctors are willing to do abortions, and more clinics are closing.”

Another explanation is found in poll results and on the streets of the annual March for Life, which confirm that young people are more pro-life than ever.

“The pro-life message resonates especially with young women who have grown up seeing their own sonogram pictures,” said Penny Nance, president of Concerned Women for America. “The debate on whether or not a child in the womb is a part of our human family is settled science.”

“The more Americans learn about the development of the unborn child and the tragedy of abortion, the more they reject abortion as a legitimate answer to an unexpected pregnancy,” Tobias agreed.

While Tobias called the lower abortion rate “heartening,” she said, “the right-to-life movement must continue its efforts to protect these children and their mothers from the tragedy of abortion and our society must do a better job in providing life-affirming alternatives.”