U.S. abortion rates are declining nationwide, but the legislative stampede to get a precedent-overturning case to the Supreme Court that would strike down Roe v. Wade isn’t a contributing factor, according to a new study released by the Guttmacher Institute. The number of abortions nationwide declined 19 percent from 2011-2017.
In Maryland, pregnancy terminations dropped 12.7 percent, according to the study, even as more clinics offered abortion during the same time frame.
Though 32 state legislatures passed 394 new restrictions on abortion from 2011-2017, abortion rates also fell in states with less restrictive laws, the reproductive health and rights research group said in its report. Instead, the biggest reason for the decline is that women aren’t becoming pregnant as often.
If abortion restrictions had been the force behind the abortion decline, birth rates would have increased, the Guttmacher Institute said. Instead, birth rates were down in every nearly every state.
Notably, the report showed the U.S. abortion rate in 2017 was at its lowest level since 1973, when Roe v. Wade was decided. The rate dropped to 13.5 abortions per 1,000 women aged 15-44, a decline of 8 percent from 2014.
Even if the flurry of anti-choice legislation isn’t driving down abortions, restrictions on a medical choice that has been legal for U.S. women for 46 years can “still inflict serious harm,” Elizabeth Nash, a senior policy manager at the Guttmacher Institute, said in an emailed statement.
“Underneath the national trend are the individual struggles and burdens that anti-abortion policymakers are creating for people within their states,” Nash said. “We need policies that ensure patients can obtain and afford reproductive health care from contraception, to pregnancy to abortion.”
While the number of clinics that perform abortions increased nationwide from 2011-2017, Guttmacher said women in some areas of the country don’t have a nearby option — especially if they live in the South, where the number of clinics decreased 9 percent.
There were 44 facilities providing abortion in Maryland in 2017, and 25 of those were clinics. These numbers represent no change in clinics from 2014, when there were 41 abortion-providing facilities overall, of which 25 were clinics.
Guttmacher said TRAP — targeted regulation of abortion providers — played a big role in shutting down abortion clinics in some states, including Texas and Ohio, making it more difficult to get an abortion.
Maryland lawmakers didn’t enact any legislation restricting abortion from 2011-2017. The Guttmacher Institute says that Maryland has these restrictions on abortion:
- The parent of a minor must be notified before an abortion is provided; health professionals are allowed to waive parental involvement in limited circumstances.
- An abortion may be performed at or after viability only if the patient’s life or health is endangered or there is a fetal anomaly.
National polls show continued support for abortion rights. The Pew Research Center said last month that support for legal abortion is as high now as it has been in two decades of polling, with 61 percent of U.S. adults saying abortion should be legal in most, if not all, cases. While the poll showed little appetite among respondents to see a complete reversal of Roe — only three in 10 wanted that — the results showed a major area of concern among the majority to be the same outlined in the Guttmacher report: In the Pew poll, 59 percent said some states are making it too difficult for women to get an abortion.
Some other findings from the report:
- Abortion rates decreased in almost every state, but there was no evidence linking the decline to abortion restrictions;
- Eighteen states did not enact any new abortion restrictions, yet they accounted for 57 percent of the decline in abortions nationwide;
- Only five states and the District of Columbia saw increases in abortion, and four of those states tightened abortion laws.
To see the story by Deb Belt as it originally appeared on Patch.com, click here.
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