Abortions are on the rise again

The number of abortions in the United States has increased, reversing a 30-year decline, a new report says.

Updated yesterday at 10:05 p.m.

Pam Belluck
The New York Times

The increase began in 2017, and as of 2020, one in five pregnancies, or 20.6%, end in abortion, according to the report from the Guttmacher Institute, a research organization that supports abortion rights. In 2017, 18.4% of pregnancies ended in abortion.

The institute, which collects data by contacting all known US abortion services, said the number of abortions rose from 862,320 in 2017 to 930,160 in 2020. That number rose in all regions of the country: 12% in the West, 10% in the Midwest, 8% in the South, and 2% in the Northeast.

Overall, the abortion rate in 2020 rose from 13.5 abortions per 1,000 women in 2017 to 14.4 per 1,000 women aged 15 to 44, a 7% increase, the report said.

According to the report, national births fell by 6% during this period.

Fewer people become pregnant and, of those who do, a greater proportion choose to have an abortion.

Excerpt from the report of the Guttmacher Institute

This new data comes as the Supreme Court is expected to soon rule in Roe v. Wade, who legalized abortion in the United States nearly 50 years ago.


Photo EVELYN HOCKSTEIN, Archive REUTERS

Pro-choice activists gather outside the US Supreme Court in Washington June 13 after a leaked document on abortion rights

In that case, about half of states should quickly ban or severely restrict abortion, while other states prepare to expand access to patients from states that make abortion impossible.

abortion and family planning

The report cites several reasons for the increase in the number of abortions, including trends that directly affect poor and low-income people, the demographic who have most frequently requested an abortion in recent years. According to the report, some states have expanded Medicaid coverage for abortions, and abortion funds that provide financial assistance to patients have grown in recent years.

Another factor may have been the Trump administration’s policy of preventing groups that received family planning funds from mentioning the abortion option to patients, leading to Planned Parenthood and several state governments rejecting that funding. According to the Guttmacher report, this may have limited access to other family planning services, including contraception, for low-income people and led to more unwanted pregnancies. The Biden administration has since reversed Trump-era policies.

Access to abortion protected despite restrictions and pandemic

The surge in abortion came at a time when many conservative states were enacting restrictions. But the report says that while 25 states enacted 168 restrictions between 2017 and 2020, some were stopped by legal challenges and many were enacted by states that already had many restrictions, so the new laws may not have any effect and many more prevented abortions.

At the same time, other states have passed 75 regulations aimed at protecting or expanding access to abortion.

Those provisions included that insurance was required to cover abortions and that nurses, physician assistants and nurse-certified midwives could provide certain abortion services, the report said.

The data covered most of the first year of the coronavirus pandemic. The report says that while access to abortion has been disrupted in some states during this time due to both attempted bans and outbreaks and restrictions on personal medical care, some states have maintained access to abortion. Additionally, for part of 2020, a judge’s decision allowed abortion pills, which account for more than half of the nation’s abortions, to be shipped to patients — a practice the Food and Drug Administration made permanent in December 2021.

The report’s findings align with the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which found a slight increase in the number of abortions from 2018 to 2019, the most recent year for which the CDC had data. CDC data collected by state health agencies does not include information from California, Maryland and New Hampshire.

The full version of this text was published in New York Times.

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