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'Concerning': Over 930,000 abortions in 2020, Guttmacher study finds

Pro-life researcher says abortions have risen since 2019 due to increase in chemical abortions

Abortion, Supreme Court
Activists with Rise Up 4 Abortion Rights protest outside of the U.S. Supreme Court Building on June 21, 2022, in Washington, D.C. |

Over 930,000 abortions occurred in the United States in 2020, representing an increase from three years earlier, according to a research organization with historic ties to Planned Parenthood.

The Guttmacher Institute released its abortion data for 2020 last week, reporting that a little over 930,000 abortions took place in the U.S. in 2020, which represents an 8% increase from 862,320 abortions in 2017.

Additionally, Guttmacher found a 7% increase in the abortion rate for women ages 15 to 44, rising from 13.5 per 1,000 women in 2017 to 14.4 per 1,000 women.  

One in five pregnancies ended in abortion in 2020, a 12% increase, with the abortion ratio increasing from 18.4% in 2017 to 20.6% in 2020.

From 2017 to 2020, noted the report, abortions increased by 12% in the West and 10% in the Midwest. Abortions also increased by 8% in the South and 2% in the Northeast, respectively. 

According to the research institute, this spike in abortions was accompanied by a 6% decline in births between 2017 and 2020, citing February data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Guttmacher contended that this suggests fewer women were getting pregnant during this time, and a larger proportion of those who did chose to have an abortion.

One reason for the increase, the Institute suggests, is related to the Trump-Pence administration’s 2019 “Protect Life Rule,” which banned abortion businesses such as Planned Parenthood, which provides or refers women for abortions, from receiving federal tax dollars. The Biden administration reversed the rule last October. 

Guttmacher claims that the Trump administration reduced the capacity of these programs to provide contraceptive care, resulting in more unintended pregnancies and abortions due to a supposed lack of access to low-cost or no-cost contraceptives.

However, Michael J. New, a researcher and associate scholar at the pro-life Charlotte Lozier Institute, noted in a piece for National Review that the abortion rate already started increasing in 2019, before Planned Parenthood withdrew from the Title X program. 

The CDC’s 2019 Abortion Surveillance report showed the total number of abortions increased by 2% compared to 2018, with the abortion ratio and rate of reported abortions increasing by 3% and 2%, respectively. 

In a statement sent to The Christian Post on Tuesday, New asserted that the Guttmacher report “should concern pro-lifers,” as the associate scholar believes the rise in the U.S. abortion rate is tied to an increase in chemical abortions. 

New cited February data from the Guttmacher Institute showing that chemical abortions accounted for 54% of U.S. abortions in 2020.

New added that the Food and Drug Administration lifted the in-person dispensing requirement for the abortion pill in December 2021, allowing them to be shipped by mail. The FDA had temporarily lifted abortion pill restrictions during COVID-19, but this move rendered the change permanent.   

“This made chemical abortions easier to access,” New said. 

Another factor, according to New, is that some states have begun making their abortion policies more permissive. He pointed to states like Illinois and Maine that passed laws to cover elective abortions through their state Medicaid programs.

“Unsurprisingly, the abortion rate increased by 28 percent in Illinois and by 15 percent in Maine,” New wrote. “Part of the Illinois increase was due to more out-of-state women seeking abortions in Illinois.”

“However, the fact that the state Medicaid program started to fund elective abortions in 2018 certainly played a role in this abortion rate increase,” he continued. 

While the pro-life researcher referred to the uptick as “concerning,” he stressed that it's important to remember the pro-life movement’s successes in reducing the U.S. abortion rate.

As New reported for the Lozier Institute in September 2019, Guttmacher's data for 2017 showed that the country’s abortion rate has fallen by over 50% since 1980.

“Furthermore, a favorable ruling in Dobbs will allow pro-lifers to do even more to build on these gains and enact additional protections for preborn children,” he said.

A leaked draft majority opinion published by Politico last month suggested the court is poised to overrule Roe and uphold Mississippi’s 15-week abortion ban.

In response to the leak, the Supreme Court issued a statement verifying the published draft’s authenticity but warned that it does not necessarily reflect the final ruling, which is expected to be released by the end of June.

According to the Guttmacher Institute, more than 20 states have “trigger laws” on the books which would go into effect and ban abortion in the absence of Roe

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