U.S. Abortion Decline Close to Stalling

Abortion Estimate Methodology

The decades-long decline in the U.S. abortion rate slowed yet again in 2003, adding to mounting evidence that the nation is failing to help women prevent unintended pregnancies and reduce the need for abortion, according to a new analysis by the Guttmacher Institute. The Institute estimates that in 2003 there were 20.8 abortions for every 1,000 women between the ages of 15 and 44. Between 2000 and 2003, the abortion rate declined by an average of only 0.8% per year; the 0.6% decline in 2002–2003 was the smallest in those three years. By comparison, the abortion rate declined by 3.4% per year in the early and mid-1990s.

"The new data confirm that the decline in the U.S. abortion rate has stopped almost completely," says Dr. Sharon L. Camp, Guttmacher president and CEO. "This troubling development is no surprise, given that unintended pregnancy rates have come to a near-standstill as well, and have actually worsened dramatically for low-income women."

Guttmacher Institute researchers reported in May that while the overall rate of unintended pregnancy in the U.S. remained unchanged between 1994 and 2001, rates increased by 29% among poor women, even as the rate declined by 20% for more affluent women.

"These trends are alarming, and should be a wake-up call to policymakers at the federal and state levels to do more to help women, especially those at greatest risk, avoid unwanted pregnancies," argues Dr. Camp. "There is an urgent need to strengthen evidence-based policies that have been proven to reduce unintended pregnancy and the need for abortion. These include improving public funding for contraceptive services for poor women at the state and federal levels by expanding Medicaid eligibility and Title X funding, and ensuring that the Food and Drug Administration acts on its own experts’ advice to grant over-the-counter status for the emergency contraceptive Plan B without further delay."

Since 1973, the Guttmacher Institute has conducted a periodic census of all known abortion providers to determine the number of abortions performed in the United States. The most recent census collected information on abortions performed in 2000. Since that time, the Institute has combined the 2000 data with more recent, but incomplete, federal and state government data to calculate interim estimates for 2001–2003. Because these estimates do not come directly from the Institute’s comprehensive census, they are subject to some limitations and should be considered provisional. Another comprehensive provider census is currently underway to collect data on abortions performed in 2004 and 2005.

For the full report and methodology, see "Estimates of U.S. Abortion Incidence, 2001–2003"

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