Abortion Rate Is Lowest in 3 Decades

The abortion rate in the U.S. continues to decline, falling
to the lowest level in more than three decades in 2005, it was reported

About 1.2 million abortions were performed in the U.S. in 2005, which was
25% less than the all-time high of 1.6 million abortions performed in 1990.

In 2005, 19 abortions were performed for every 1,000 women between the ages
of 15 and 44, compared with 26 abortions per 1,000 women in 1991.

The figures come from a nationwide survey of abortion providers conducted by
the Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive health research group.

Guttmacher Senior Research Associate Rachel Jones, PhD, tells WebMD that the
reasons for the decline are not clear.

It could be because women are having a harder time accessing abortion
services, or because more women are using contraception and having fewer unintended pregnancies,
Jones says

She adds that it is likely that both factors have played a role in the
downward trend.

Drop in Number of Abortion Providers Slowing

It appears from the report that a decade-long decline in the number of
abortion providers in the U.S. is slowing, but this may be largely driven by an
increase in clinics that only provide abortion drugs such as mifepristone (also known as Mifeprex or
RU-486) and not surgical abortions.

Mifepristone has been available in the U.S. since its approval by the FDA in
2000. It is used for the termination of early pregnancies.

In all, 1,787 facilities provided abortions in 2005, down just 2% from 2000.
That compares to a 14% drop in providers between 1992 and 1996 and a further
11% drop between 1996 and 2000.

But when only clinics providing surgical abortions were included in the
analysis, the decline in providers between 2000 and 2005 was 8%.

Other major highlights from the report include:

  • 57% of abortion providers now offer mifepristone or other drugs for the
    termination of early pregnancy , compared with 33% in 2001. 

  • 13% of all abortions between 2000 and 2005 (161,000) involved drugs and not
    surgery. Roughly 20% of abortions performed prior to 9 weeks' gestation
    were nonsurgical. 

  • Overall, the number of abortion providers declined in 26 states and the
    District of Columbia, increased in 15 states, and remained stable in

  • 87% of counties in the U.S. had no abortion provider, meaning that 35% of
    women had to travel outside the county they lived in to find such services.
    Women in the Northeast and West were least likely to live in a county with no
    provider, and women in the South and Midwest were most likely. 

  • More than six in 10 abortions took place within the first eight weeks of
    pregnancy, and almost three in 10 were performed at six weeks or earlier.

Teen Birth Rate Up in 2006

Despite the continued downward trend in abortions, slightly more than one in
five pregnancies ended in abortion in 2005.

In a news release, Guttmacher Institute President and CEO Sharon L.
Camp says the figure highlights the need to increase access to contraception to
reduce unwanted pregnancies.

"Our policymakers at the state and federal levels need to understand
that behind virtually every abortion is an unintended pregnancy," she

By Salynn Boyles
Reviewed by Louise Chang
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