Guttmacher Institute reports abortion at all-time low

Missouri is among the states with the lowest rates of abortions, according to a study recently released by the Guttmacher Institute.

The study noted that the U.S. abortion rate is at its lowest since 1973, the year of the Roe vs. Wade decision. In 2011, the national abortion rate had declined to 16.9 abortions per 1,000 women ages 15-44. The report also noted that between 2008 and 2011, the abortion rate fell 13 percent, resuming a long-term downward trend that had stalled between 2005 and 2008.

The study did not specifically look at reasons for the decline, but the study's lead author, Rachel Jones, noted that there was no evidence that the national decline was the result of new state abortion restrictions. The decline in abortions, however, coincided with a national drop in overall pregnancy and birth rates. Jones also said that contraceptive use "improved" during this period, and women and couples have avoided or delayed pregnancy due to the recent recession.

In 2011, there were five abortion providers in Missouri, four of which were clinics. As of 2014, Missouri only has one remaining clinic that performs surgical or drug-induced abortions — Planned Parenthood in the Central West End of St. Louis. Additional abortion-related legislation is being considered this year, including a bill that would extend the waiting period for abortions from 24 to 72 hours and one that would require more frequent inspections of abortion clinics.

Deacon Samuel Lee of Campaign Life Missouri said that while many factors can be considered in the drop in abortions, he disputes Guttmacher's assertion that there's no evidence of state abortion restrictions leading to a decline in abortions.

In Missouri, for example, recent laws were passed that made changes to an ambulatory surgical center licensing law and a 2005 law that requires all doctors who perform abortions to have clinical privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of where the abortion is performed. Both laws led to a decrease in the number of abortion providers in Missouri.

"I think we should be grateful for that, but not rest on our laurels and keep moving forward," Deacon Lee said. It's important not to forget that even with legislation, the challenges associated with abortion don't cease to exist. That's why alternatives to abortion are crucial, he said.

"I hope more and more states will look at how can we support the work of the agencies that are saving lives now," said Deacon Lee, citing legislation, funding appropriations, tax-credit programs and donations, all of which support pregnancy resource centers and other pro-life agencies.

Abortion in Missouri: At a glance

• In 2011, there were 1,720 abortion providers in the United States. This is a slight (4 percent) decrease from 2008, when there were 1,787 abortion providers. Thirty-five percent of these providers were hospitals, 19 percent were abortion clinics (clinics where more than half of all patient visits were for abortion), 30 percent were clinics where fewer than half of all visits were for abortion and 17 percent were private physicians' offices. Sixty-three percent of all abortions were provided at abortion clinics, 31 percent at other clinics, 4 percent at hospitals and 1 percent at private physicians' offices.

• In 2011, there were five abortion providers in Missouri; four of those were clinics. This represents a 17 percent decline in overall providers and a a 20 percent decline in clinics from 2008, when there were six abortion providers overall, of which five were abortion clinics. (As of 2014, Missouri only has one clinic — Planned Parenthood in St. Louis — that perfoms surgical abortions.)

• In 2011, 89 percent of U.S. counties had no abortion clinic. 38 percent of American women lived in these counties, which meant they would have to travel outside their county to obtain an abortion. Of women obtaining abortions in 2008, one-third traveled more than 25 miles.

• In 2011, 97 percent of Missouri counties had no abortion clinic. 74 percent of Missouri women lived in these counties.

Source: Guttmacher Institute State Facts About Abortion: Missouri 

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