The U.S. abortion rate dropped in 2011 to its lowest point since the Supreme Court's 1973 ruling legalized the procedure in Roe vs. Wade, and the number of abortions fell by 13 percent between 2008 and 2011, according to a study by a research institute that supports abortion rights.
There were about 1.06 million abortions in 2011, as compared to roughly 1.2 million in 2008, says the research by the Guttmacher Institute, as reported by The Associated Press.
The abortion rate dropped to 16.9 abortions per 1,000 women ages 15 to 44 in 2011, down from 16.3 in 1973, says the study, which will be published in March.
The abortion rate in 2011 looks significant particularly in light of the highest rate of 29.3 recorded in 1981.
The research seeks to highlight that the period studied predates the increase in state laws limiting abortion access under Republican-controlled legislatures. It notes that the total number of abortion providers dropped by 4 percent, to 1,720, between 2008 and 2011, and the number of abortion clinics declined by just 1 percent to 839.
"Contraceptive use improved during this period, as more women and couples were using highly effective long-acting reversible contraceptive methods," the lead author, Rachel Jones, is quoted as saying. "Moreover, the recent recession led many women and couples to want to avoid or delay pregnancy and childbearing."
The past three years have seen "an unparalleled attack on abortion rights at the state level, and these new restrictions are making it harder for women to access services and for providers to keep clinic doors open," Los Angeles Times quotes Elizabeth Nash, state issues manager at Guttmacher, as saying.
The study also notes that about 239,400 abortions entailing early medication procedures were performed in 2011, representing 23 percent of all non-hospital abortions, an increase from 17 percent in 2008.
Pro-life group National Right to Life Committee attributed the decline in the abortion rate to advocacy by like-minded organizations. "It shows that women are rejecting the idea of abortion as the answer to an unexpected pregnancy," according to the group's president, Carol Tobias.
Americans United for Life says the research cannot be trusted fully as it reflects merely voluntary self-reporting by abortion providers. "It is impossible really to know the true abortion rate," the group's president, Charmaine Yoest, tells the newswire.
The report notes that the highest abortion rates were in New York, the District of Columbia, Delaware and New Jersey – the states that are seen as liberal. The lowest abortion rates were in Wyoming, Mississippi, South Dakota, Kentucky and Missouri.
The study argues that many women in Wyoming and Mississippi, which are seen as conservative states and where providers are scarce, go out of state for abortions.