Michael J. New on The Truth Behind America’s Abortion Decline

Young pro-life campaigners greet passersby with their anti-abortion message. | (PHOTO: 40 DAYS FOR LIFE)

The Guttmacher Institute released updated U.S. abortion data for 2017 showing that America’s abortion decline continues. Overall, the U.S. abortion rate fell by approximately 20 percent between 2011 and 2017. Furthermore, the decline was widespread, with 45 of 50 U.S. states reporting declining rates.

Considering the salience of abortion as a public policy issue this year, it is unsurprising that Guttmacher’s new data received a great deal of media coverage. On Wednesday morning, the five U.S. newspapers with the largest online circulation, USA Today, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, and the Los Angeles Times, all ran stories about America’s ongoing abortion decline.

However, the mainstream media’s reporting on this new data left a great deal to be desired. Of these five newspapers, only one provided any quotes from a pro-lifer. The New York Times did include some commentary by Clarke Forsythe, senior counsel of Americans United for Life. Other prominent media outlets including The Hill and CNN also covered Guttmacher’s new abortion data without publishing any analysis from pro-lifers.

Instead, the mainstream media, with very few exceptions, uncritically reported Guttmacher’s analysis of the declining abortion numbers. Unsurprisingly, Guttmacher argued that the recent abortion decline had little to do with pro-life laws or reductions in sexual activity — and was instead largely due to greater use of contraceptives.

The Flaws in Guttmacher’s Analysis

Of course, Guttmacher’s analysis of the new data is largely superficial. It compares the 32 U.S. states that recently enacted pro-life laws to the 18 states that did not enact pro-life legislation. It found the fraction of states in each group that experienced abortion rate declines was relatively similar. Guttmacher pays little attention, however, to the types of pro-life laws that were being enacted.

Furthermore, Guttmacher dismisses research that shows a decline in sexual activity, despite the fact that the Youth Risk Behavior Survey and the National Survey of Family Growth both show long-term declines in percentage of teens who have been sexually active. Most importantly, Guttmacher only considers the change in the U.S. abortion rate from 2011 to 2017. Six years is a relatively short time with which to properly analyze changes in demographics, behavior, or public policy.

Instead, when analyzing America’s long-term abortion rate decline, a different picture emerges. In the United States, the abortion rate increased sharply after the Roe v. Wade decision in 1973. The U.S. abortion rate peaked in 1980, however, and has been declining fairly steadily ever since. Overall, between 1980 and 2017, the U.S. abortion rate has fallen by more than 53 percent.

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SOURCE: Christian Post, Michael J. New