NEW YORK -- U.S. abortions fell 5% during the Great Recession in
the biggest one-year decrease in at least a decade, according to
government figures released Wednesday.
The reason for the decline
wasn't clear, but some experts said it may be due to better use of birth
control during tough economic times. Their theory is that some women
believe they can't afford to get pregnant.
"They stick to straight
and narrow ... and they are more careful about birth control," said
Elizabeth Ananat, a Duke University assistant professor of public policy
and economics who has researched abortions.
While many states
have aggressively restricted access to abortion, most of those laws were
adopted in the past two years and are not believed to have played a
role in the decline.
Abortions have been dropping slightly over
much of the past decade. But before this latest report, they seemed to
have leveled off.
The new data from the Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention found that both the number and rate of abortions
fell 5% in 2009, the most recent statistics available from most states.
all states report abortion numbers to the federal government, but it's
voluntary. A few states - including California, which has the largest
population and largest number of abortion providers - don't send in
data. Experts believe there are more than 1 million abortions performed
nationwide each year, but because of the incomplete reporting, the CDC
had reports of about 785,000 in 2009.
For the sake of consistency,
the CDC focused on the numbers from 43 states and two cities - those
that have been sending in data without interruption for at least 10
years. The researchers found that abortions per 1,000 women of
child-bearing age fell from about 16 in 2008 to roughly 15 in 2009. That
translates to nearly 38,000 fewer abortions in one year.
had the lowest abortion rate, at 4 per 1,000 women of child-bearing
age. The state also had only a couple of abortion providers, and has the
nation's highest teen birth rate. New York was highest, with abortion
rates roughly eight times higher than Mississippi's. New York is second
only to California in number of abortion providers.
since 2000, the number of reported abortions has dropped overall by
about 6% and the abortion rate has fallen 7%, but the figures
essentially leveled off for a few of those years.
By all accounts, contraception is playing a role in lowering the numbers.
cite a government study released earlier this year suggesting that
about 60% of teenage girls who have sex use the most effective kinds of
contraception, including the pill and patch. That's up from the
mid-1990s, when fewer than half were using the best kinds.
also pointed to the growing use of IUDs. The IUD, or intrauterine
device, is a T-shaped plastic sperm-killer that a doctor inserts into a
woman's uterus. A Guttmacher Institute study earlier this year showed
that IUD use among sexually active women on birth control rose from
under 3% in 2002 to more than 8% in 2009.
IUDs essentially prevent "user error," said Rachel Jones, a Guttmacher researcher.
said another factor for the abortion decline may be the growing use of
the morning-after pill, a form of emergency contraception that has been
increasingly easier to get. It came onto the market in 1999 and in 2006
was approved for non-prescription sale to women 18 and older. In 2009
the age was lowered to 17.
Underlying all this may be the economy,
which was in recession from December 2007 until June 2009. But well
afterward, polls have shown most Americans remained worried about anemic
hiring, a depressed housing market and other problems.
think a bad economy would lead to more abortions by women who are
struggling. However, John Santelli, a Columbia University professor of
population and family health, said: "The economy seems to be having a
fundamental effect on pregnancies, not abortions."
More findings from the CDC report:
- The majority of abortions are performed by the eighth week of pregnancy, when the fetus is about the size of a lima bean.
women had the lowest abortion rate, at about 8.5 abortions per 1,000
women of child-bearing age; the rate for black women was about four
times that. The rate for Hispanic women was about 19 per 1,000.
- About 85% of those who got abortions were unmarried.
- The CDC identified 12 abortion-related deaths in 2009.