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The incidence of abortion has declined nearly every year between 1990 and 2005, but this trend may be ending, or at least leveling off . Access to abortion services is a critical issue, particularly since the number of abortion providers has been falling for the last three decades.
In 2009 and 2010, all facilities known or expected to have provided abortion services in 2007 and 2008 were contacted, including hospitals, clinics and physicians’ offi ces. Data on the number of abortions performed were collected and combined with population data to estimate national and state-level abortion rates. Abortion incidence, provision of early medication abortion, gestational limits, charges and antiabortion harassment were assessed by provider type and abortion caseload.
In 2008, an estimated 1.21 million abortions were performed in the United States. The abortion rate increased 1% between 2005 and 2008, from 19.4 to 19.6 abortions per 1,000 women aged 15–44; the total number of abortion providers was virtually unchanged. Small changes in national abortion incidence and number of providers masked substantial changes in some states. Accessibility of services changed little: In both years, 35% of women of reproductive age lived in the 87% of counties that lacked a provider. Fifty-seven percent of nonhospital providers experienced antiabortion harassment in 2008; levels of harassment were particularly high in the Midwest (85%) and the South (75%).
The long-term decline in abortion incidence has stalled. Higher levels of harassment in some regions suggest the need to enact and enforce laws that prohibit the more intrusive forms of harassment.
Rachel K. Jones is senior research associate, Guttmacher Institute, New York. Kathryn Kooistra, formerly a research associate with the Guttmacher Institute, is a student at the College of Nursing, State University of New York Downstate.