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Pro-Choice Policy Actually Reduces the Abortion Rate


Last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that abortion rates in the United States in 2013 were the lowest recorded since 1971, a full two years before Roe v. Wade established a woman’s right to choose. Now, Yahoo News’s Amy Sullivan argues that we can thank Democrats for the decrease.

Yes, per the CDC’s most recent report, there were 12.5 abortions per 1,000 women, ages 15 to 44, in 2013, a 5 percent decrease from 2012 (13.2 per 1,000 women). Not coincidentally, the contraceptive mandate of the Affordable Care Act took effect in August 2012, meaning most health plans had to cover birth control without co-pays starting in January 2013.

By contrast, during George W. Bush’s presidency, from 2001 to 2008, the annual abortion rates hovered around 16 per 1,000 women. Under Bill Clinton, the rate went from 23 in 1993 to 16.4 in 2000. While George H.W. Bush was president, the abortion rate fell one point from 24 to 23. That means the last two Democratic presidencies corresponded with abortion-rate reductions of 6.6 and 3.3 points, while the last two Republican administrations saw the rate go down by a point or less.

While there have been hundreds of anti-choice TRAP laws enacted since 2011, the CDC report suggests other reasons why abortion rates have fallen sharply: expanded insurance coverage of contraception, increasing use of long-acting methods like IUDs and implants, and a decrease in unintended pregnancies. And fewer unintended pregnancies means fewer terminations. (The CDC cited estimates that intended pregnancies account for less than 5 percent of all abortions.)

Sullivan is not the first person to point out that Democratic policies reduce unintended pregnancies and thereby abortions, but it bears repeating until it’s dogma. As for her question about why Democrats don’t frame the argument this way, it’s probably because doing so would paint abortion as a “bad” thing to be eradicated, when, really, the birth-control mandate is about reducing the number of unintended pregnancies.

Pro-Choice Policy Actually Reduces the Abortion Rate