A recent report that the abortion rate has fallen nationwide has pro-lifers celebrating more mothers choosing life, while abortion advocates credit affordable birth control. Let’s examine which version of events best fits the data.
Government figures show that in the past three years, the decline in abortion totals just over 85,000. In 2010, the percentage of pregnancies that ended in abortion was 17.92% in 2010, and by 2013 it was 16.2% in 2013. What the numbers show is that 74.3 percent of the abortion decline is due to fewer women choosing abortion. Knowing the why more women are choosing life though is not something that the data speaks to.
The other 25.7 percent of the abortion decline is explained by fewer women becoming pregnant. Factors that impact this include fertility rates, consistency of contraception use, and frequency of sexual activity. Overall from 2010 to 2013, pregnancies were down 3.2 percent while abortion was down 12.5 percent.
However, the caution comes with two significant factors not included in the national data. First, abortion counts only include surgical abortions and RU-486 (the abortion pill). While these may account for a majority of abortions, these numbers do not include the morning after pill or multiple other birth control methods that the Food and Drug Administration classifies as birth control, but which have abortifacient properties.
Still a bigger problem with the data is the that five states do not report abortion data at all.
Topping the list of problematic states is pro-abortion California. The state does not have any laws mandating that abortion providers report the number of abortions they perform. As the most populous US state, with 38 million residents, it also has a host of pro-abortion laws in effect. The state is controlled by a pro-abortion governor and legislators, and even has a law that every health care plan in the state (including churches) must cover abortion. The state even pays for abortions under its state Medicaid plan, Medi-Cal. With blatant pro-abortion laws and leaders, few abortion restrictions, and free abortions, the elimination of data from the state in national reports makes it problematic for drawing conclusions.
Other states that don’t mandate abortion reporting include, Maryland and New Hampshire. Additionally, New Jersey does not track its abortions (but public assistance pays for them for qualifying poorer residents), and Wyoming says its abortions are too low in number to be included in statistical data, so those are not reported.
While there’s no question that pro-lifers have reason to celebrate reduced abortions, there are still many missing pieces to the data–and, in fact, missing data. Until every state reports abortions, we won’t have a complete picture. That said, the picture we see is an encouraging one where abortion rates have been on a steady decline for about 30 years.