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Abortion numbers in the U.S. are at their lowest since Roe v. Wade

protesters outside clinic

Steven Depolo / flickr (CC by 2.0) | remix by Max Fleishman

The reasons may surprise you.

According to a Guttmacher Institute report, abortion is at its lowest rate since Roe v. Wade made abortion legal in the U.S. That’s good news, since no matter how pro-abortion you are, most people would probably avoid the procedure if they could help it. The bad news is people are arguing about just why abortion rates are down, and whether it’s because people have better access to birth control or less access to safe abortion procedures.

NPR writes that the rate of abortion was 14.6 per 1,000 women ages 15–44 in 2014, the lowest recorded since 1973. Abortion supporters say this is a win for reproductive rights because it exemplifies the decreasing rates in unintended pregnancy and a declining birthrate. “It shows that we’re finally doing a better job of helping women get access to birth control that’s affordable and that’s high-quality,” said Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood.

However, others call the numbers “proof” that restricting access to abortion, as many states have been doing by shuttering abortion clinics and making requirements more cumbersome, keep people from having abortions.

The Guttmacher Institute is an organization that supports abortion, and the study’s authors attribute the reason for the drop to both arguments. The increased availability of long-term contraceptives, made affordable for many by ACA, decreased the rates of unintended pregnancies. But author Rachel Jones said, “Some of the abortion rate decline is likely attributable to women who were prevented from accessing needed services.”

Previous studies have shown that restricting abortion access isn’t particularly effective at stopping abortions; it only forces more pregnant people to seek unsafe or self-induced abortions. For instance, a recent study found that in Texas, one of America’s most conservative states when it comes to abortion access, at least 100,000 women had attempted to self-terminate a pregnancy.

Jaya Saxena

Jaya Saxena

Jaya Saxena is a lifestyle writer and editor whose work focuses primarily on women's issues and web culture. Her writing has appeared in GQ, ELLE, the Toast, the New Yorker, Tthe Hairpin, BuzzFeed, Racked, Eater, Catapult, and others. She is the co-author of 'Dad Magazine,' the author of 'The Book Of Lost Recipes,' and the co-author of 'Basic Witches.'