Why is Abortion Declining Nationwide and Fewer Babies Dying in Abortions?

National   Randy O'Bannon, Ph.D.   Dec 1, 2017   |   6:13PM    Washington, DC

Over the long term, numbers of abortions, abortion rates and ratios are down in virtually every state. Most states showed drops in most years going back over the past two decades or more. While most of the decreases were modest a few states had profound declines.

It is also true some states saw increases as reported in the “Abortion Surveillance — United States, 2014” over the numbers in the CDC’s report for 2013.

Generally, these changes were slight, only a few dozen or at the most a couple of hundred more. In some cases, however, there appear to have been significant increases in just a year’s time.

While the general trend speaks for itself, the larger moves up or down call for some explanation and educated examination.

States with Significant Single Year Shifts

CDC figures for 2014 show declines in 28 reporting areas, and another 20 showing increases. [1] For the most part, the number of abortions rose or fell by modest amounts. However a handful of states saw big drops or increases. Unless noted otherwise, all increases/decreases are from 2013 to 2014.

Big Drops and Significant Increases

The number of abortions in Texas dropped by a whopping 9,020. Abortions fell by 2,278 in Illinois and 2,030 in Ohio. In New York, there were 1,335 fewer abortions while in Tennessee there were 1,843 fewer abortions.

Some of this is simply a function of being a large state with a large volume of abortions from the beginning, but there are other reasons that will be discussed later. It is also important to note that a few smaller states saw diminishing numbers that were significant for them.

For example Montana reported just 152 fewer abortions, significant given their smaller population. But Montana also experienced a substantially lower abortion rate (down 0.9 abortions per thousand women aged 15-44, while the national drop was just 0.3) and lower abortion ratio (down 13 abortions for every thousand live births) in 2014.

Rhode Island reported only 261 fewer abortions. However this was huge given their smaller size and population. In addition their abortion rate (again, the number of abortions/1,000 women of reproductive age) fell 1.3, more than four times the national rate drop. Rhode Island’s abortion ratio (the number of abortions for every 1,000 live births) was down 25, nearly double the national ratio drop.

A look at the abortion rates and ratios shows that some of the bigger states drops were for reasons more than just their size. New York’s rate drop was just 0.4, a hair over the national 0.3 drop. However their abortion ratio dropped by huge 143 abortions.

Illinois’ abortion rate drop (0.9 fewer abortions per thousand women of reproductive age) was three times the national rate drop. Its abortion ratio fell 17. Ohio’s rate drop (-0.9) was also three times the national rate drop and its ratio fell 15.

Tennessee and Texas saw huge drops in their abortion rates (drops of 1.5 in the abortion rate for TN, and 1.8 for TX) as well as significant drops in the abortion ratio (a decline in the abortion ratio of 26 for TN and 28 for TX).

A few states moved the other direction.

There were 1,509 more abortions in Michigan in 2014. Its abortion rate rose 0.8 and its abortion ratio increase by 12 for every thousand live births. That means that the incidence of abortion became more frequent among women in Michigan and that pregnant women in that state were a bit more likely to choose abortion over live birth in their state than they were in 2013 .

New Jersey experienced an additional 2,461 abortions in 2014 over 2013. Its abortion rate grew1.4 and its ratio increased by 22 abortions for every thousand live births.

North Carolina reported 1,785 more abortions in 2014 than in 2013. Its abortion rate grew 0.8 and its abortion ratio increased by11.

There were 2,076 more abortions in Nevada while its abortion rate increased 2.5 and its ratio climbed 54.

A few smaller states – Arkansas, Hawaii, New Mexico and the District of Columbia — did not add as many abortions, given their smaller populations, but saw significant increases in their abortion rates and ratios.

Why are some up and others down?

Given the mixed numbers and wide geographic variations, it’s difficult to determine any single broad explanation for all states.

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The overall trend, of course, is down, as it has continued to be for nearly all these states for the last couple of dozen CDC reports. That should never be forgotten when we look at any one year.

The mixed results from 2013 to 2014 could be an indication that the trend line could be shifting. But a more likely explanation is that unique local factors are coming into play.

The case of Texas

The abortion industry raised a ruckus when Texas passed safety regulations on clinics in 2014, claiming these were going to close clinics across the state. It was an argument that not only garnered a lot of media attention but also swayed a majority of justices at the Supreme Court in Whole Women’s Health v. Hellerstedt, the 2016 case that struck down much of this law.

Clinics did indeed close in Texas, and abortions dropped considerably. But as NRL News Today explained in a number of posts, the data and the dates do not fully match.

Abortion clinics in Texas were closing not just before the 2014 law took effect but before the law was even passed.

To be sure the portion of the law dealing with safety regulations may have been responsible for some closures. But the closer analysis we provided showed that a different part of the law addressing the chemical abortion drug protocol probably had a greater impact on state abortion numbers. Once that passed, many clinics stopped offering the method. That portion of the law was not challenged at the Supreme Court, nor, by the way, was Texas banning the abortions of pain-capable unborn children.

If anything, an earlier law passed by Texas in 2011 that disqualified abortion business affiliates from participating in the state’s Women’s Health Program may have been a bigger factor in there being both fewer clinics and fewer abortions than the 2014 law.

Down in Tennessee, Illinois and Ohio

In 2014 in Tennessee, there was a concerted campaign for an amendment declaring that there was no right to abortion in the state constitution. This was intended to address a supposed legal ambiguity that had made the passage of pro-life legislation difficult for years and had given courts an excuse to demand continued funding for groups like Planned Parenthood.

That amendment passed in November of 2014, garnering 53% of the vote. Though abortion advocates have been able to delay formal recognition of the amendment by litigation, months and months of advertising and public debate gave the pro-life view a significant boost and likely prompted many women to seek alternatives to abortion.

Illinois passed a parental notification law in 1995, but abortion advocates, through legal maneuvering, kept that law from going into effect for nearly two decades. That law finally went into effect in August of 2013, making 2014 the first full year of its operation.

Though abortions have been dropping in Illinois for some years, this significant legal change was surely a part of the explanation for the most recent drop.

Ohio Right to Life credited governor John Kasich and pro-life legislators for their work in bringing down abortions in that state. “We’ve seen 16 new pro-life laws signed in the past four years and half of the state abortions clinics have closed,” spokesperson Katherine Franklin told the cleveland.com news site. (9/2/15). “[W]e think there’s a lot to be said for pro-life policies.”

Four years ago, pro-abortion “Think Progress” labeled Ohio as “One of the worst states for women’s health” (3/30/14).

Up in Michigan, New Jersey, and North Carolina

A NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio spokesperson noted that the decline in Ohio has been matched by an increase in Michigan. While they do share a border and some leakage is possible over the state line, there is still an overall decrease if abortion totals for both states are added and compared for 2013 and 2014.

The case of Michigan highlights the significance of the role that abortion performing and promoting groups like Planned Parenthood play. Though the number of abortion clinics in Michigan fell from 41 in 2011 to 29 in 2014, Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest and most aggressive abortion chain, increased the number of abortion performing locations from one to six from 2010 to 2016.

New Jersey’s increase is not hard to explain when you count the clinics. According to the Guttmacher Institute, the number of abortion performing facilities in New Jersey went from 24 in 2011 to 41 in 2014. Most of those were clinics that began offering chemical abortions.

There were officially fewer “clinics” in North Carolina in 2014 than 2011, Guttmacher says, but more “providers.” Guttmacher doesn’t clarify the distinction in that document (www.guttmacher.org/fact-sheet/state-facts-about-abortion-north-carolina), but the idea appears to be that though five clinics officially closed, reducing the number from 21 to 16, the number of abortionists in the state rose from 36 to 37.

To get an idea of what transitions like these entail, FemCare of Asheville was one of the major abortion clinics to close in March of 2014 after being exposed for multiple health code infractions. That clinic was hardly missed, though, with patients being slated to transfer over to a new Planned Parenthood clinic scheduled to open later that summer.

What does it all mean?

As noted above, nailing down all the factors that contributed to the rise or fall of abortions in any particular state can be very difficult. Many factors, large and small, can cause abortions, abortion rates, and abortion ratios to tick up or down. Again, we need to remember the trend is downward.

In its own analysis, the CDC declared

“Multiple factors influence the incidence of abortion, including access to health care services and contraception; the availability of abortion providers; state regulations, such as mandatory waiting periods, parental involvement laws, and legal restrictions on abortion providers; increasing acceptance of non-marital childbearing; shifts in racial/ethnic composition of the U.S. population; and changes in the economy and the resulting impact on fertility preferences and access to health care services.”

Some of these we have definitely seen come into play. Parental involvement laws apparently prompted teens to discuss their unintended pregnancies with their parents rather than to try to cover them up with clandestine abortions. Safety regulations closed some clinics while others states saw abortion expand when they added clinics with chemical abortions. Efforts to prevent state funding from going to organizations that perform abortion led to some closures.

But above all else (the megatrend) it is that fewer women are becoming pregnant and fewer among them that do are choosing to abort.

How much of the drop in demand is due to legislative efforts by pro-lifers passing laws make abortion’s risks and reality plain, how much is due to education which makes knowledge of the humanity of the unborn child common, how much is due to outreach which makes realistic alternatives to abortion accessible, is hard to quantify precisely.

But abortions and abortion rates and ratios are down across the board, and more pregnant moms are choosing life for themselves and their unborn children.

And that is very good news, indeed.

[1] The CDC obtains data from 47 states and separate reports from the District of Columbia and New York City. There was no data from California, Maryland or New Hampshire. These together are collectively referred to as “reporting areas.” Because data from New York City is also included in data for the state, we will generally only refer to data from DC and the remaining 47 states.

LifeNews.com Note: Randall O’Bannon, Ph.D., is the director of education and research for the National Right to Life Committee. This column originally appeared at NRL News Today.