There appears to be some generally accepted wisdom among anti-choice activists in the United States linking abortion accessibility to higher numbers of women seeking out the procedures. The more clinics offering women abortions, the more women will be lining up outside said clinics, they argue. But is this actually true? Perhaps not. In fact, taking a look at abortion stats from today vs. 20 years ago, anti-choice activists might be surprised about a lot of things.
According to research compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, abortion rates have been steadily decreasing for years. The report looked at data compiled from 47 states and found that 2013 (the most recent study by the CDC) saw the fewest abortions since 1971; just 12.5 women per 1,000 women aged 15-44 years old. 2013 saw a five percent decrease in abortions from the year before. The Associated Press too conducted an extensive survey in 2015 which showed that abortion rates had decreased a full 12 percent since 2010 in almost all states.
So why are women getting fewer abortions in the 21st century versus a few decades ago? There could be a number of reasons, the most likely of which points to better accessibility not only to contraceptives but also to reproductive education at Planned Parenthood clinics across the country — the same clinics, ironically enough, that House Republicans are fighting to defund on a federal level.
Anti-choice activists, many of whom have been protesting a woman's right to choose what happens within her own body since the landmark Roe. v Wade decision by the Supreme Court 42 years ago, believe that making the procedure illegal would stymie the rise of abortions. But looking at abortion stats from 20 years ago (1997) provided by the CDC, the numbers are already down considerably. In fact, for both pro-choice advocates and those opposed to abortion, the numbers should arguably be more promising than before.
In case you're wondering, here's how the figures stack up.
Total Number Of Legal Abortions Performed In The United States
In 1997: 1,186,039 nationwide
In 2013: 664,435 nationwide
Total net difference: -521,604
Period Of Gestation Prior To Abortion Procedures
Despite recent controversy within the Trump administration about the availability of late term (after 20 weeks) abortions, the majority of women from now and 20 years ago still seek out the procedure early on in their gestation.
In 1997: 88 percent of all abortions were performed at 13 weeks or earlier
In 2013: 91.6 percent of abortions were performed at 13 weeks or earlier
Total net change: +3.6 percent
Age Groups & Demographics Of Those Seeking Abortions
In 1997: Women were generally under 25 years old, white, and unmarried.
In 2013: 58 percent of women were in their 20s, racial identifiers and marital status' were not provided.
Overall change: No significant change in age, unknown differences between demographic groups
First Time Abortion Seekers
In 1997: More than one half of all abortions were performed on women who had never previously had an abortion.
In 2013: No statistical change
As the government continues to wage war on a woman's right to choose, it's more important than ever to keep your facts straight. Abortion rates are down despite better access to clinics. Offering women sexual education, birth control, and health services is, quite simply, never a mistake. Protesting to keep Planned Parenthood clinics open helps reduce the number of abortions nationwide.
That's something all women and activists can get behind.