AGENCE France-Presse reported from Washington, DC on Monday about a study by the Guttmacher Inbstitut that the number of abortions performed in the United States has dropped to the lowest level in 40 years.
The study said AFP pointed to more contraception use rather than increased restrictions on access to abortion caused the reduction.
“In 2011, an estimated 16.9 abortions were carried out per 1,000 women aged between 15 and 44 — 1.1 million in absolute terms. It was lowest number since 1973, when the figure stood at 16.3 per 1,000, the Guttmacher Institute found.
“Between 2008 and 2011, the abortion rate fell by 13 percent, as procedures were performed increasingly earlier in pregnancy.
“The study noted that during that same period, the number of abortion providers fell by just four percent and clinics offering the service by just one percent.
“The number of abortions had reached a peak in 1981, with 29.3 pregnancy terminations for every 1,000 women.
“With abortion rates falling in almost all states, our study did not find evidence that the national decline in abortions during this period was the result of new state abortion restrictions,” said Rachel Jones, lead author of the study.
“We also found no evidence that the decline was linked to a drop in the number of abortion providers during this period.”
Instead, the drop coincided with a steep dip in the numbers of overall pregnancy and birth rates.
“Contraceptive use improved during this period, as more women and couples were using highly effective long-acting reversible contraceptive methods,” Jones said.
The devastating economic recession had also prompted many women and couples to delay pregnancy or childbearing.
Since early 2011, many US states have implemented laws making it harder for women to seek abortion — with 205 new restrictions enacted between 2011 and 2013, more than the entire decade before.
“As we monitor trends in abortion going forward, it is critical that we also monitor whether these state restrictions are preventing women who need abortion services from accessing them,” said Guttmacher Institute official Elizabeth Nash.
The study was based on analysis from a census of all known abortion providers in the United States and will appear in the March 2014 issue of the Guttmacher Institute’s “Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health.”
Anti-abortion activists welcomed the reported dip in the numbers, insisting it validated their campaigning.
“That abortion rates and numbers continue to decline is heartening because it shows that women are rejecting the idea of abortion as the answer to an unexpected pregnancy,” said Carol Tobias, president of the National Right to Life group.
“Overall, this latest report from Guttmacher shows the long-term efforts of the right-to-life movement to educate the country about the humanity of the unborn child and to enact laws that help mothers and their children are having a tremendous impact.”
Analysis by Zenit’s Fr. John Flynn, LC
From Rome, Zenit’s Fr. John Flynn, LC, wrote an analysis piece reporting and assessing the “dramatic decline in the number of children being born, according to a new report from the United Nations,” in recent years.
Here’s what Fr. Flynn wrote:
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The “World Fertility Report 2012” was published earlier this year by the population division of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs [of the UN]. The data covers the period from 1970 to recent times.
“Fertility has declined worldwide to unprecedented levels since the 1970s,” the report stated. In fact, fertility fell in all but 6 of the 186 countries that the United Nations surveyed.
The trend to lower fertility is accelerating. The report noted that in the most recent period covered, 80 countries or areas had a total fertility below 2.1 children per woman, which is the level required to ensure the replacement of the current population level.
The population division observed that quite a number of countries have “remarkably low total fertility.” There are 20 countries with fertility that is below 1.4 children per women and 38 countries with fertility below 1.6 children per woman.
The report said that in the last decade no European or North American countries had total fertility above 2.2 children per woman and only four (France, Iceland, Ireland and the United States of America) had levels above 2.0 children per woman.
Overall, total fertility was below 1.4 children per woman in about half of the developed countries.
A number of countries have experienced quite dramatic falls in fertility. One mentioned in the report was Iran. From 7.0 children per woman in 1985 by 2006 it had plummeted to 1.9 children per woman.
Not surprisingly the report said that the proportion of governments that considered their fertility levels to be too low rose from 11% in 1976 to 26% in 2011.
Age at marriage
Another significant trend is the rise at the age of marriage. The estimated mean age at marriage for women has increased in 97 of the 99 countries surveyed. The higher age at marriage was particularly notable in countries with a lower fertility rate.
When it comes to men the situation is similar to that of women, with the additional consideration that mostly men marry at an older age compared to women.
The report commented that the mean age at the first birth is an important measure of fertility as it marks the beginning of parenthood with all its social, economic and health implications. It also affects the overall level of fertility, given that the period for childbirth is shortened when the age of a woman at first birth is older.
The United Nations also looked at the number of women who do not have children. In low-fertility countries, levels of childlessness ranged from 3.8% in the Maldives to 23.1% in Singapore. In high-fertility countries, fewer women remain childless, but there were still wide differences, from 0.3% in Sao Tome and Principe to 15.9% in Jordan.