Abortion rate peaked in 1981 under former President Reagan (though he had just taken office), and is at the lowest rate since 1973 as of 2011, under President Obama. The abortion rate had been falling until it “stalled” between 2005 and 2008, under former President Bush.
According to a new study by Guttmacher, the abortion rate fell by 13% under Obama. Declines were the steepest in the Midwest and West, and “less steep yet noteworthy” in the South and Northeast (emphasis mine):
The U.S. abortion rate declined to 16.9 abortions per 1,000 women aged 15-44 in 2011, well below the 1981 peak of 29.3 per 1,000 and the lowest since 1973 (16.3 per 1,000), according to “Abortion Incidence and Service Availability in the United States, 2011,” by Rachel Jones and Jenna Jerman. Between 2008 and 2011, the abortion rate fell 13%, resuming the long-term downward trend that had stalled between 2005 and 2008. The number of abortions (1.1 million in 2011) also declined by 13% in this time period.
Before conservatives can get all “Yea, restricting freedom is working!”, the study also suggests that this decline is not due to state level restrictions. “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.”
The drop was also not attributed to the loss of providers.
Furthermore, Republicans didn’t really get going on their war on women until 2010, when they began a full on assault courtesy of ALEC in many cases. Guttmacher notes that states enacted “205 abortion restrictions between 2011 and 2013, more than in the entire previous decade combined.” Looking at these statistics, one might ask why Republicans have been focusing on a non-problem that was getting better every year while ignoring the glaring lack of jobs due to the Bush recession.
What caused the drop in the abortion rate? As always, the number one factor that reduces the abortion rate is birth control, and that was a factor here, as well as the recession causing more people to plan to delay or avoid pregnancy.
“Rather, the decline in abortions coincided with a steep national drop in 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, such as the IUD. Moreover, the recent recession led many women and couples to want to avoid or delay pregnancy and childbearing.”
Ms. Jones also observed that the availability of medical abortion has led to a shift to early abortions, which also contrasts with the Republican version of reality under President Obama.
In November of 2012, the CDC released a study that showed that under Obama the abortion rate fell by 5%, “The change from 2008 to 2009 represented the largest single year decrease in the total number and rate of reported abortions for the entire period from 2000 to 2009.” (2009 is the latest year for which there was data at that time.)
Yet Republicans (including former Speaker and GOP Presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich) continue to call this President and Democrats “baby killers”, especially when they are fighting to make contraception something that insurance does NOT cover. This Republican argument makes no sense, and is only used to drum up the emotions of people who aren’t aware of the facts. The facts are that birth control and sex education are the two proven methods to reduce abortion. Democrats champion both, while Republicans obstruct and defund both.
The CDC study proved that the way to reduce abortion was to reduce unintended pregnancy (duh). The way to do this is with………..
This is what happens when a party uses an emotional issue as a get out the vote tactic but does not really care about actually ending abortion at all. After all, even if they make abortion illegal it will still go on, it will just be unsafe and harm many women. Republicans don’t want the issue of abortion to go away, because it is one of the few ways they can get their evangelical base out to vote. They had better hope the base never catches on to the truth.
This also suggests that Democrats and Obama are not necessarily “pro abortion” as the Republicans like to charge. Quite the opposite. While they are pro freedom for women to make their own medical decisions, they also seek to help women avoid these tough decisions by making birth control accessible. If we want to deal in reality, it’s Republicans who are “pro abortion”, as their policies lead to more abortions, not less.
So here we have President Obama’s Culture of Life, which fits in nicely next to his badge for being fiscally responsible, getting Osama bin Laden, and getting the stock market to record levels.
Ms. Jones is the co-founder/ editor-in-chief of PoliticusUSA and a member of the White House press pool.
Sarah hosts Politicus News and co-hosts Politicus Radio. Her analysis has been featured on several national radio, television news programs and talk shows, and print outlets including Stateside with David Shuster, as well as The Washington Post, The Atlantic Wire, CNN, MSNBC, The Week, The Hollywood Reporter, and more.
Sarah is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists.