Nationwide, there’s been a 12 percent decrease in the number of abortions since 2010, according to an Associated Press survey that compiled the numbers from all 45 state health departments that collect such data. Fewer pregnancies were terminated in both states with unfettered access to abortions, and the 31 states that passed 267 new abortion restrictions since 2011.
What caused the drop? It seems no one really knows, but naturally advocates on both sides saw the figures as a vindication of their cause. Anti-abortion activists claim more women are choosing to carry to term, partly thanks to new state laws that force women to undergo an ultrasound. “There’s an entire generation of women who saw a sonogram as their first baby picture,” Charmaine Yoest, president of Americans United for Life, told the AP. “There’s an increased awareness of the humanity of the baby before it is born.”
However, abortion rights advocates say the numbers prove helping women take control of their reproductive health is the best way to cut the abortion rate. “Better access to birth control and sex education are the biggest factors in reducing unintended pregnancies,” said Cecile Richards, president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America. “More restrictive abortion laws do not reduce the need for abortions.” (Case in point: Louisiana and Michigan were the only states where abortions rose significantly, and those increases were partly attributed to an influx of women from neighboring states that passed severe abortion restrictions.)
We do know one big factor in the nationwide drop is the continuing decline in the teen pregnancy rate. The surprising success of MTV’s Teen Mom franchise is just about the only thing we can all agree on.