Abortion Rates Down

From WaPo:

After years of holding steady, new Center for Disease Control data shows that the United States abortion rate has fallen to an all-time low. It dropped 5 percent between 2008 and 2009, the most recent years for which data is available, the largest decline in the past decade.

The big question for public health researchers is: Why? What was different in 2008, that might have lead to this downtick in abortions?

What’s the most reasonable explanation?

About Scot McKnight

Scot McKnight is a recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. McKnight, author of more than forty books, is the Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL.

  • Matt

    My guess is federal funding for organizations that provide contraceptive services and sex education jumped. In the fiscal year ending June 30, 2010, Planned Parenthood’s federal funding, for example, was nearly 40% higher than it was at between July 2007 and June 2008.

  • http://www.truthtolove.com Brad

    I doubt it Matt. Most research I’ve seen on the link between contraceptive use and abortion rates is inconclusive at best and ambiguous at worst. Though there are numerous possibilities, I think economic conditions have to be considered here.

  • p

    When did the “day after pill” become available?

  • Dan Arnold

    Brad (3),

    Studies have consistently shown a direct link between the economic security of the pregnant woman and the likelihood of her having an abortion. Therefore, it makes little sense that abortion rates would have fallen during the great recession unless something else countered that link. It is unlikely that women were somehow feeling more secure economically at a time of such great financial turmoil, nationally. Matt’s assertion gives a plausible hypothesis, although one that would still need to be verified (as far as I know).

    Shalom uvrecha

  • http://annsphillips.wordpress.com Ann Phillips

    You all seem to be looking at this expecting a simple explanation. However, motivation is complex and individual. Obviously, the worst economic crisis since the Depression of the 1930s had to be playing some role in the individual decisions that make up the statistical change we see here. One would think, on the economic side that in a bad economy, the rate would tend to rise, because struggling families would not want additional mouths to feed. I wonder if the pregnancy rate itself was down during this time period.

    Here is another possibility. If most abortions are among young unmarried women, how might the bad economy have been affecting their decisions? In some cases, they might have been out working or looking for work, instead of hanging out with boys. In other cases, with one or more of their parents laid off, they might suddenly have had more supervision, which would limit opportunities for risky behavior. In fact, some families reported an unforseen consequence of layoffs being an increase in family togetherness. In cases where young women are giving s*x to get love, the percieved need may have been reduced along with opportunities for privacy.

  • Craig

    Two words: Barack Obama. :)

  • AHH

    Based on the linked Washington Post blog, it looks like about half of this decline is due to a decline in the rate of pregnancies and about half due to decline in the fraction of pregancies ending in abortion.
    For the decline in total pregancies, one might point to economic conditions, or to better contraception (that’s what the WaPo mainly mentions).
    The decline in the fraction of preganancies aborted is, as others have mentioned, opposite from what is expected during an economic downturn. I suppose if contraception really improved, that could also have the effect of fewer “unwanted” pregnancies which would reduce the abortion rate.

  • Craig

    “For the decline in total pregancies, one might point to economic conditions, or to better contraception (that’s what the WaPo mainly mentions).”

    Or maybe female parts have a way of “shutting the whole thing down” in recession-like times. What you’d want to find is a decline not in total pregnancies, but in unwanted pregnancies. Do pregnancies tend to be wanted under poorer economic conditions? Or, in poor economic conditions, are people just more diligent with the contraception (because they really don’t want to get pregnant)? Lots of possibilities I bet.

  • Dana Ames

    The only ideas I have about why this happened would be what AHH @6 said.

    Here are some other things that seem clear to me:

    It has not been about who has occupied the White House.
    It has not been about who is on the Supreme Court.
    It has happened while abortion has been legal.

    I think those things need to be considered, but will they be? That’s the question…

    Dana

  • Matt

    I haven’t seen all of the research, but reports in October of a recent study probably contributed to my making the connection: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/05/us/study-finds-free-contraceptives-cut-abortion-rate.html?_r=0

    As others have pointed out, poor economic conditions typically result in higher abortion rates because of increased odds that a pregnancy is unwanted. So that can’t be the reason here, unless it’s coupled with an increased availability of contraception that prevents pregnancy in the first place.

  • Mike M

    How have changing demographics affected this and was this taken into consideration? Amongst those girls and women most willing to have abortions, are there fewer, more, or has the number stayed the same? How many are older and now married? How has the influence of the fathers influenced this? How have paternity laws?

  • Kate

    Further to Matt’s comment, an article in the British Medical Journal recently (maybe the same study Matt refers to) described how a pilot project offering free contraception showed huge reductions in abortions. The statement that caught my attention was this:

    ‘The authors estimated that expanding the program nationally “would prevent as many as 41-71% of abortions performed annually in the United States.”’

  • Percival

    I would like to know if this decline is coming from unmarried women or married women. For unmarried women, there used to be a lot of shame associated with pregnancy out of wedlock. No more. I think a lot of abortions used to be motivated by hiding the shame of unwed pregnancy.

  • Jeremy B.

    A lot of reasons are possible, but the tongue-in-cheek answer is “A pro-choice Democrat in the White House.” I do wonder about the psychological impact of having a pro-entitlement African-American in office has as the abortion rate in the black and poor communities FAR outpace any other demographic.


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