New study on abortion rate doesn't tie drop to new state restrictions

Washington — Almost two weeks after the national March for Life rally in Washington, the Guttmacher Institute reported a 13 percent drop in national abortion rates from 2008 to 2011 -- making for the lowest rate since 1973 when abortion on demand was legalized in the U.S.

However, "no evidence was found" of a correlation between the declining rate and new abortion restrictions set between 2008 and 2011, said the study released Feb. 3.

The study reported 16.9 abortions per 1,000 women ages 15-44 in 2011, totaling almost 1.1 million abortions that year. The peak was in 1981 with nearly 30 abortions per 1,000 women, according to The Associated Press.

Guttmacher wrote that "more effective contraceptive methods" may have contributed to the decline in unintended pregnancies, thus causing a decline in abortions.

"Contraceptive use improved during this period, as more women and couples were using highly effective long-acting reversible contraceptive methods," Rachel Jones, an author of the study, told the AP.

Jones said the recent recession may have also contributed to the decline in pregnancy rates, as more women wanted to "avoid or delay pregnancy and child bearing" in tough economic times.

The student also showed a 4 percent drop in the number of abortion providers, but that had no effect on the decline in abortion rate, Jones said.

Jeanne Monahan, president of the March for Life Education and Defense Fund, said the authors of the study "conceded the fact that there was no data" to confirm a direct link between legislation and abortion decline, implying there was no way to trace such evidence.

"They have decent data that's not 100 percent accurate, and they say that in the (study)," Monahan told Catholic News Service.

Despite this, March for Life and other organizations need data from the Guttmacher Institute to track measurement, she said, because there are no official government reports that have the same data.

Though pro-life organizations see positive signs in Guttmacher's study, Monahan said there's more to do.

"Obviously, we're delighted," she said of the decline. "It's great news for women and (the) babies ... but the statistic '1.1 million' is still so sad."

In a commentary posted Monday on the website of the Witherspoon Institute, Richard M. Doerflinger, associate director of the U.S. bishops' Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities, noted various inconsistencies in the study by Guttmacher, which he said is described as a "pro-abortion-rights think tank." He said Guttmacher's " 'spin' overwhelms its reporting."

In one example, the study mentions there were 49 fewer abortion clinics from 2008 to 2011 and said that accounted for a 4 percent drop in the number of abortion providers. But Doerflinger said he did his own calculation of the study's numbers and the number of abortion clinics dropped from 378 to 329 in that time period, which is a decline of 13 percent, the same as the decline in the number of abortions, he noted.

"The significance of this figure ... is underscored by Guttmacher's apparent effort to hide it," he wrote.

Furthermore, he said, each abortion clinic performs up to 5,000 each year, so closing just one clinic could still have "a significant impact" on overall abortion decline.

"In short, pro-life Americans should rejoice at the good news, and redouble their efforts to help pregnant women and their unborn children," Doerflinger wrote. "Notwithstanding the spin doctors of the abortion industry, we are seeing some light at the end of that long dark tunnel."

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