New abortion stats spark divergent analyses
WASHINGTON (BP) -- The latest reported decline in abortions in the U.S. cannot be appreciated without giving credit to legislative and educational efforts of pro-life organizations, National Right to Life President Carol Tobias said.
Tobias was responding to a report released Monday (Feb. 3) by the Guttmacher Institute showing the U.S. abortion rate in 2011 is the lowest it has been since 1973. The institute, a former research arm of Planned Parenthood, said the statistics reflect a drop in abortions prior to a wave of pro-life advances in state legislation.
Tobias, however, rejected the Guttmacher Institute's reasoning.
"The legislative efforts of the right-to-life movement, and significantly, the resulting national debate and educational campaigns surrounding pro-life legislation should not be minimized when discussing the decline in abortion numbers," Tobias said in a news release.
"The more Americans learn about the development of the unborn child and the tragedy of abortion, the more they reject abortion as a legitimate answer to an unexpected pregnancy."
Abortions declined to 16.9 per 1,000 women ages 15-44 in 2011, well below the 1981 peak of 29.3 per 1,000 and the lowest since 1973, when procedures numbered 16.3 per 1,000 women in that age group. The Guttmacher report, titled "Abortion Incidence and Service Availability in the United States 2011," largely parallels estimates in the National Right to Life Committee's abortion report issued in January, which was based on data from the Centers for Disease Control and previous Guttmacher findings.
Tobias said the continued decline in abortion rates and numbers is "heartening because it shows that women are rejecting the idea of abortion as the answer to an unexpected pregnancy."
The Guttmacher report "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 children and their mothers are having a tremendous impact," Tobias said.
The Guttmacher made note of a 13 percent decrease in abortion during the study period, which pre-dated a surge in state anti-abortion laws and the closing of clinics offering abortion.
"While the study did not specifically investigate reasons for the decline, the authors note that the study period (2008–2011) predates the major surge in state-level abortion restrictions that started during the 2011 legislative session, and that many provisions did not go into effect until late 2011 or even later," according to the Guttmacher study. "The … total number of abortion providers declined by only 4 percent between 2008 and 2011, and the number of clinics (which provide the large majority of abortion services) declined by just one percent."
Abortion rates dropped in all four U.S. regions and in all but six states during the study period, the report said. Declines were steepest in the Midwest at 17 percent and the West, 15 percent, the study found, and less steep in the South at 12 percent and the Northeast, 9 percent. States showing an increase in abortion rates had rates below the national average at the start of the study period, Guttmacher found.
The National Right to Life Committee said the Guttmacher statistics were presented in a way to downplay pro-life legislation during the period covered by the report.
"This ignores the significant educational impact of the public policy debate surrounding pro-life legislation. Pro-life legislative efforts at the federal and state levels dating back to the 1980s have established legal protections for unborn children and their mothers," according to an NRLC press release. "They have also increased public awareness about the impact of abortion by prompting discussion of such topics as the development of the unborn child, the use of taxpayer dollars to pay for abortion, and the gruesome partial-birth abortion procedure."
Despite the declining numbers, abortions still number 21.2 per 100 pregnancies ending in live birth or abortion, Guttmacher found. These numbers support the need for continued pro-life lobbying and education, Tobias said.
"While overall fewer unborn children are being killed by abortion, the Guttmacher report tragically finds that more than one in five pregnancies ends in abortion and takes the life of a living unborn child," Tobias said. "The right-to-life movement must continue its efforts to protect these children and their mothers from the tragedy of abortion and our society must do a better job in providing life-affirming alternatives."
Compiled by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press general assignment writer/editor. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).