NEW YORK (AP) – The number of abortions in the US appears to be increasing after a prolonged decline, although officials are cautious about calling it an upward trend as the government’s report released Wednesday is incomplete.
National abortion rates in 2017 hit their lowest level since the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision to legalize abortion.
But the next two years saw a slight increase in the number and rate of abortions, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported.
In 2018, they grew by 1%. The following year, this number increased by 2%, and the rate per 1000 women of childbearing age increased by 1%.
The CDC report presents the latest available data on abortions in the United States. But it should be interpreted with caution, as it is based on voluntary reporting and is not exhaustive, experts say.
Among its restrictions: it does not include abortion in three states, including California, the country’s most populous state. In other states, there may be significant underreporting.
These omissions mean that up to 30% of the country’s abortions cannot be reflected in the CDC’s data, according to official figures from the Guttmacher Institute, a New York-based nonprofit research organization that supports abortion rights. The group is conducting a more comprehensive survey of all US abortion providers every three years, and its next report is due to be published next year.
“Despite the limitations of the CDC report, it generally paints a big picture similar to that reported by Gutmacher,” said Rachel Jones, lead researcher for the project.
“Historically, trends have coincided,” Jones said.
Fertility in the United States has been declining for over a decade, which means that both fertility and abortion have declined over the years.
The idea that the number of abortions may be on the rise lately may be surprising, especially given the recent efforts in many states to restrict abortion.
“If that means more people are getting access to health care when they need it, then that’s a positive shift,” Jones said.
Growth could be related to access and use of contraception, she said, and it could even be related to more people having sex.
Overall, the CDC recorded about 630,000 abortions in 2019. The abortion rate was 11.4 abortions per 1000 women aged 15–44 years. In that year, 56% of reported abortions were surgical, and about 44% were abortion pills.
The report also showed that about 18% of all pregnancies in the United States ended in abortion.
Jones noted that it is difficult to make general statements about abortion trends in the United States because there can be significant differences from one state to another. And the number in one state can increase if women from other states go there.
It is not yet clear what the 2020 abortion trends will look like during the COVID-19 pandemic. Several states, including Indiana, Iowa, and Kansas, reported increases. But it is possible that the number of abortions dropped during the quarantine, Jones said.
“Whatever happens in 2020 is not just a long-term trend. It was also affected by COVID, ”she said.
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