Huge Abortion Rate Decline Shows Pro-Life Progress

Opinion   |   Michael New, Ph.D.   |   Jun 22, 2012   |   4:04PM   |   Washington, DC

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a report this week which analyzes trends in pregnancy rates, birth rates, and abortion rates since 1990. Both the CDC and the Guttmacher Institute frequently release data on the incidence of abortion.

However, this report is unique because it presents the trends by race, age, and marital status. Overall, the news is good. The national abortion rate is falling fairly steadily and has declined by over 29 percent since 1990. Additionally, there has been a decline in the incidence of abortion among nearly all demographic groups.

Of course, some demographic groups have seen the abortion rate fall faster than others. Whites saw their abortion rate fall by 44 percent since 1990, while the abortion rate for blacks and Hispanics only fell by 23 percent and 32 percent respectively during the same time period. This is consistent with a number of media reports which find that those seeking abortions have become even more disproportionately minority and low income.

What is perhaps most interesting is the sharp decline in the abortion rate among teenagers. Since 1990 the teen abortion rate (for those ages 15–19) fell by 55 percent. Other age groups saw considerably smaller declines and there was even a small increase in the abortion rate for women aged 40–44. To its credit, the report cites a decline in teen sexual activity as a reason for the decline in the minor abortion rate. An earlier report by the CDC found that the percentage of female teens who had never engaged in sexual activity increased by 16 percent since 1995.

Not surprisingly, the report also cites greater contraceptive use as a reason for decline in the teen abortion rate. The discussion here could have been more nuanced. A prior study from the CDC, using data from the National Survey of Family Growth, found that the percentage of sexually active teens using the birth-control pill has increased since 1995. However, the same study shows that the percentage of teens using condoms has actually decreased by a greater amount since that time.



Regardless, this data is useful for pro-lifers. Long-term trends seldom get the attention of breaking stories or new developments. However, this report adds a growing body of evidence that the pro-life movement is making quiet progress on a number of different fronts. Note: Dr. Michael New is a political science professor at the University of Michigan–Dearborn and holds a Ph.D. from Stanford University. He is a fellow at Witherspoon Institute in Princeton, New Jersey.