The abortion rate is falling because fewer women are getting pregnant

You might not know it from the political debate, but abortion is becoming increasingly rare in the United States — and activists on both sides are rushing to take credit. A survey released earlier this week by the Associated Press shows that the number of abortions performed each year declined by about 12 percent nationwide between 2010 and 2014, continuing a steady downward trajectory since the early 1990s.

Anti-abortion activists point to the hundreds of inventive restrictions on abortion passed in Republican-controlled states across the South and Midwest since 2010, which have closed dozens of clinics, especially in rural areas. These restrictions include mandatory pre-abortion counseling, waiting periods and policies that require women to look at an image of the fetus before undergoing the procedure. Charmaine Yoest, the president of Americans United for Life, one of the groups behind the measures, argues that the laws are forcing women to consider the full implications of the decision to abort. She told the AP that the decrease in abortions is a sign that women’s perspectives are changing. “There’s an entire generation of women who saw a sonogram as their first baby picture,” she said. “There’s an increased awareness of the humanity of the baby before it is born.”

Abortion-rights advocates, meanwhile, argue that the abortion rate is declining because contraception is cheaper and more widely available than ever before, thanks to the Affordable Care Act, which requires insurers to cover most types of birth control with no copay.