Why Abortion Rates Are Down Almost Everywhere

June 9th 2015

Laura Donovan

Abortion rates are down in nearly all states, according to a new survey conducted by the Associated Press.

The AP came to this conclusion by studying the health department abortion numbers of 45 states (excluding California, Maryland, New Jersey, New Hampshire, and Wyoming, as these states don't collect abortion data on a comprehensive basis, according to the AP).The data reveals that abortion levels are lower in both blue and red states. Indiana, Ohio, Oklahoma, and Missouri have intense anti-abortion laws, and these states have seen a more than 15 percent decrease in abortions over the past few years. The same, however, goes for places like Oregon, New York, and Washington, all of which have less aggressive -- if not progressive -- abortion policies. Overall, abortion rates in America have fallen around 12 percent since 2010.

Why are abortion rates lower?

Pro-life and pro-choice advocates clash on the reason behind the nationwide plunge in abortions: anti-abortion measures like required sonograms, or increased access to birth control, which can prevent unwanted pregnancies?

Woman's health advocates state that increased access to birth control has enabled more women to prevent pregnancies in the first place. The Affordable Care Act (ACA), after all, mandates free birth control coverage, and the White House recently cracked down on insurance companies that were violating this rule

"Better access to birth control and sex education are the biggest factors in reducing unintended pregnancies," Cecile Richards, president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, told AP. "More restrictive abortion laws do not reduce the need for abortions."

Americans United for Life, an anti-abortion public interest law firm, stands by the idea that looking at a sonogram convinces many women to keep the child even if they hadn't initially planned on doing so.

"There's an entire generation of women who saw a sonogram as their first baby picture," President Charmaine Yoest told AP. "There's an increased awareness of the humanity of the baby before it is born."

Which states have the most significant abortion rate declines?

Hawaii, Nevada, Rhode Island, New Mexico, and Connecticut had the top five largest abortion rate dips of the 45 states examined, with Hawaii coming in first at a 30 percent drop. Laurie Temple Field, government relations director for Planned Parenthood in Hawaii, told AP that the state's sex education courses in public schools incorporate pregnancy prevention into the material, which might be one reason for the decline. More women are also receiving contraception and health coverage, according to Temple.

Only two states -- Louisiana and Michigan -- experienced extreme jumps in abortion rates. From 2010 to 2014, Louisiana saw a 12 percent hike in abortion rates. (Last year, a federal judge blocked the state from enforcing a new restrictive abortion policy, which some argued could potentially shut down all of the state's abortion clinics. It is unclear if this contributed to the spike.)

Michigan saw a nearly 20 percent spike in abortion rates, and the AP reports the increases in these two states were the result of women hopping over from other states -- such as Ohio and Texas -- to escape strict abortion policies. Many went to Michigan from Ohio to obtain an abortion, as Michigan has seen several abortion clinics fold.

Statistics on abortions in the United States

The Guttmacher Institute states that according to a 2014 study published in the American Journal of Public Health "[h]alf of pregnancies among American women are unintended, and about four in 10 of these end in abortion."