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Why the Abortion Rate Has Gone Up For the First Time Since 1990

Abortions in the U.S.

The stalled abortion rate

The latest survey of abortion providers, by the Guttmacher Institute, reports that in recent years there has been a slight uptick in abortions in the U.S. — which marks an end (or a blip) in the steady decline since 1990.

The peak of abortions in recent history was in 1990, when 1.61 million were performed. After that, numbers declined by 25% to 1.21 million in 2005. The rate of abortions went from 27.4 to 19.4 per 1,000 women age 15-44 in the same time period.

But starting in 2007, the decline stalled and there was a slight uptick in both number and rates (to 19.6/1,000) of abortion among U.S. women.

Meanwhile harassment outside abortion provider offices has been rising since 2000 and 57% of providers were harassed in 2008.

The abortion rate varies highly from state-to-state. Here are the states with the highest and lowest numbers, and why the researchers think abortions have seen a bump in recent years:

Delaware, New York and New Jersey had the highest rates in 2008. Wyoming, Mississippi, Kentucky, South Dakota, Idaho and Missouri had the lowest.

But the number performed in a given state is different than the number of residence of that state who receive an abortion, say the researchers, since many travel out of state to have the procedure.

Women accessed abortions in specialized clinics (70%), non-specialized clinics (24%), hospitals (4%) and physicians’ offices (1%).

Meanwhile, different providers had limits on the gestational age at which they would perform an abortion with 95% offering them at 8 weeks, 64% offering some second-term abortions, and only 23% offering abortions after 20 weeks.

The economy may be in play here, say the researchers, because when financial times are tough, people are less willing and able to provide for children — the economic downturn might influence a family’s decision. When it recovers, the abortion rate may continue its descent, they say.

Although as my side note, with a more anti-choice congress in Washington, we’ll see how the access to abortion may be squeezed in the coming years.

Image: flickr

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