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U.S. abortion rates at lowest since Roe v. Wade

Dr. Elizabeth Yuko is the Health & Sex Editor at SheKnows. She is a bioethicist, adjunct professor of ethics at Fordham University and has written for publications, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Atlantic, Rolling...

Access to contraceptives & restrictive regulations contribute to the decline in abortion rates

So much of the rhetoric surrounding the federal defunding of Planned Parenthood centered around the fact that 3 percent of the services the organization provides are abortions — which, fun fact, are not eligible for federal funds anyway. On top of that, a report released today indicates that the number of abortions in America has dropped to well below 1 million — the lowest level since 1974 when the historic Roe v. Wade Supreme Court case was decided.

In addition, the abortion rate continued to decline, dropping to 14.6 abortions per 1,000 women aged 15 to 44 — the lowest rate ever recorded and a 14 percent drop from 2011 according to the Guttmacher Institute report.

More: Last night's Senate Obamacare repeal vote was terrible for women

Although it is difficult to pinpoint specific reasons behind the decline, the authors of the report suggest two major possibilities.

First, the increased access to contraceptives — potentially thanks to the expanded reproductive health coverage of Obamacare — resulted in the decline in unplanned pregnancies in the United States.

So just to recap, the same reproductive health coverage that Republicans are so eager to take away is a driving factor behind the decline in abortions.

More: No, Republicans: Defunding Planned Parenthood definitely will not save money

The second possibility is that the influx of abortion restrictions passed at the state level during the past five years could have contributed to the decline because it was harder for women to access the necessary services in parts of the country with strict laws and fewer clinics.

“Restricting access to abortion may force women to delay the procedure or carry unwanted pregnancies to term,” says Megan Donovan, Guttmacher senior policy manager. “Instead, we should focus on increasing access to the full range of contraceptive methods, as well as to abortion services. Empowering women to prevent unintended pregnancies and plan their families is both a human rights priority and smart public health policy.”

More: What we can learn from Middle Eastern women about fighting for reproductive care

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