Effective birth control may be one reason that the U.S. abortion rate has reached its lowest number ever, experts say. (Photo: Image Source/Corbis)
The U.S. abortion rate has declined by 35 percent over two decades, according to a report from the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) released today (Dec. 11). The current rate is the lowest ever recorded since the government began tracking abortion data in the mid-1970s.
In 1990, the abortion rate was 27.4 per 1,000 women aged 15 to 44. In 2010, the most recent year analyzed in the study, the rate dropped to 16.7 per 1,000 women, the report shows.
During the same time period, pregnancy rates decreased by 10 percent, reaching a record low. Teen pregnancies declined significantly, by 67 percent among those younger than 15, and 50 percent among teens 15 to 19.
The rate of abortions and live births both declined between 1990 and 2010, according to government data. (Source: CDC/NCHS)
Updated estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggest that the abortion rate has declined even further. In 2012, the most recent year CDC data is available, the abortion rate was 13.2 per 1,000 women.
By all measures, the abortion rate is at a historic low, the CDC says. More than 90 percent of abortions occur early in pregnancy, by or before 13 weeks’ gestation, according to CDC data.
Increased use of effective contraceptive methods is one of the major contributors to the decline in abortion rates, says study co-author Kathryn Kost, principal research scientist at the Guttmacher Institute.
“Across the states, the rate of unintended pregnancy is going down,” Kost says. “That suggests that fewer women are getting pregnant when they don’t want to. It’s happening across the board, and affects the birth rate and the abortion rate.”
The NCHS report includes birth data from the National Vital Statistics System, abortion information from the Abortion Surveillance System and Guttmacher Institute, and numbers on fetal loss from the National Survey of Family Growth.
Read This Next: The U.S. Is Struggling When It Comes to Sex Ed