Five key facts about abortion in the U.S.

Five key facts about abortion in the U.S.

- in Health

Banning abortion does not reduce it

Countries that restrict abortion the most have the highest rates of abortion, the Guttmacher Institute found. “The abortion rate is 37 per 1,000 women in countries that prohibit abortion altogether or allow it only to save a woman’s life, and 34 per 1,000 in countries that allow abortion without restriction as to reason — a difference that is not significant,” Guttmacher said in a report issued in March.

“Historical and contemporary data show that where abortion is illegal or highly restricted, women resort to unsafe means to end an unwanted pregnancy, including self-inflicted abdominal and bodily trauma, ingestion of dangerous chemicals, self-medication with a variety of drugs, and reliance on unqualified abortion providers,” ACOG says. “Today, approximately 21 million women around the world obtain unsafe, illegal abortions each year.”

In the U.S. before Roe v. Wade, ACOG says an estimated 1.2 million U.S. women got illegal abortions every year, and says unsafe abortions killed as many as 5,000 of them. “After the Supreme Court ruling, mortality due to septic illegal abortion decreased precipitously,” ACOG said.

Providing free birth control does reduce abortion rates

Colorado provides a real-life experiment on whether providing safe, effective, long-acting birth control can reduce unwanted pregnancies and abortions. The state’s Department of Public Health and Environment got private funding in 2008 for a program to provide long-acting reversible contraceptives (LARCs), such as IUDs and hormone implants, to low-income women for little or no cost.

Image: Trends in abortion between 1997 and 2014
Trends in abortion between 1997 and 2014Guttmacher Institute

“The Colorado Family Planning Initiative helped cut the abortion rate nearly in half for women aged 15-19 and by 18 percent for women aged 20-24,” the department said in a 2017 report. “Between 2009 and 2014, birth and abortion rates both declined by nearly 50 percent among teens aged 15-19 and by 20 percent among young women aged 20-24.”

Abortion is very common in the U.S.

“In the United States, where one half of all pregnancies are unintended, almost one third of women will seek an abortion by age 45,” ACOG says.

A 2016 study in the New England Journal of Medicine found that 45 percent of all pregnancies among U.S. women in 2011 were unintended, and 42 percent of them these unintended pregnancies ended in abortion.

According to the Guttmacher Institute, 19 percent of pregnancies ended in abortion in 2014, a total of 926,200 abortions. That was down 12 percent from 2011. The 2014 abortion rate of 14.6 abortions per 1,000 women was the lowest rate ever measured. In 1973, the rate was 16.3 abortions per 1,000 women, aged 15 to 44.


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