Abortion rates in the United States have dropped to their lowest level in a decade, according to a report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Between 2006 and 2015, which was the cut-off point for the survey, abortions in participating areas fell from 842,855 to 638,169 — a decrease of 24 percent. In the last year of that time frame alone — from 2014 to 2015 — the rates dropped two percent, down from 652,639 abortions.
The CDC has been tracking the number of abortions in the U.S. since 1969, according to CNN. After abortion was legalized in 1973, the agency found that the number, rate (or number of abortions per 1,000 women ages 15–44 years ) and ratio (or the proportion of terminated pregnancies per number of live births) of abortions began to increase rapidly, with levels peaking in the 1980s. But since that time, the abortions have, for the most part, been on a steady decline. The recent report found that the number, rate and ratio of reported abortions between 2006 and 2015 hit “historic lows.”
The report does not explore the causes of the downward trend, but experts say a number of factors could be at play. “Analyses have suggested that improved contraceptive use played a role in the long-term declines,” Rachel Jones, principal research scientist for the Guttmacher Institute, tells The Washington Post. “In some states, decreased access to abortion services contributed, as well.”
(Though the survey does not continue beyond 2015, limited abortion access has become a particular concern since the election of Donald Trump, as certain states have attempted to implement strict abortion laws.)
While abortion rates are on the whole decreasing, the CDC report notes that “the incidence of abortion has varied considerably across subpopulations and remains higher in certain demographic groups than others.”
In 2015, for instance, almost 60 percent of women who underwent abortions were in their 20s. At 6.8 abortions per 1,000 women, white women accounted for the lowest abortion rate; black women had the highest rate, at 25.1 per 1,000.
An overwhelming majority — 91 percent — of abortions in 2015 happened at 13 weeks of gestation or earlier. More than 64 percent of these abortions were performed surgically, while about 25 percent of all abortions were “medical abortions” — a method induced by medication, rather than surgery, which has been found to be effective and safe.