Great news, if not surprising news. As contraceptive technology has improved, as the taboo against using it has shrunk, and as new restrictions on abortion have passed in various red states, it’d be odd if the rate weren’t declining.
The pro-choice Guttmacher Institute, which conducted the survey, says there were fewer than a million abortions performed last year for the first time since 1975. Which is also good news, once you get past the whole “a million children aborted every year for 40 years” thing.
I’m going to go ahead and guess that this has something to do with the decline:
By one estimate, fully 35 percent of pregnant teenagers end up aborting. As such, a steep drop in teen pregnancy logically means a steep drop in the overall number of abortions. To see how steep, eyeball this Guttmacher graph from April of last year comparing the decline among teenagers in terms of pregnancy, live birth, and abortion. By 1990, the pregnancy rate was creeping up on 12 percent; today it’s less than half that. The abortion rate among teens was nearly 40 per 1,000 women in 1988; as of 2011 it had dropped to just 13.5, which is lower than the current national level per the graph above.
One more data set for you, this from an HHS report in 2015 on increasing use of “long-acting reversible contraception,” a.k.a. IUDs:
They weren’t used much during most of the 80s due to safety fears but now they’re back and then some, especially among career-age women. Guttmacher claims that IUD use rose 36 percent between 2009 and 2012 alone. Substitute “long-acting” birth control for more traditional “situational” measures like condoms, which may or may not be used in the moment, and, yeah, it stands to reason that that’ll mean fewer pregnancies.
By the way, according to two polls taken last year, approval of birth control as either morally justified or not a moral issue is virtually unanimous among Americans. Gallup found 89 percent willing to call contraception “morally acceptable.” When Pew asked a similar question, just four percent overall (and eight percent of Catholics) deemed it morally wrong.