Almost exactly 35 years after the landmark Roe vs. Wade decision, new research from the Guttmacher Institute shows that abortion rates have declined significantly. The "rate" of abortions — also known as the number of pregnancies terminated per 1,000 women — has declined 25% since its peak in 1990, and, according to the L.A. Times, while in the early 80s, nearly 1 in 3 women chose abortion, today only 1 in 5 do. Pregnancy pundits from both sides of the abortion debate are unsure as to why, exactly, rates have plunged so drastically; one reason could be the legalization of the abortion pill, RU-486. (According to Guttmacher, 14% of abortions are induced via ingestion of RU-486, and the abortion rate is calculated only via stats on the number of "old school" D&C procedures.)
Another possible reason for the decline could be limited access to clinics for many women living in rural areas. Newsweek cites a troubling, almost unbelievable statistic: 87% of American women live in counties without an abortion provider (!!!). (What's almost more disturbing is the L.A. Times' theory that part of the decline in abortions is due to laws in 30 states which mandate counseling before a woman is allowed to go through with an abortion. These "counseling" sessions often purposely spread disinformation, reports the paper — "For example, warnings that abortion raises the risk of breast cancer or causes post-traumatic stress disorder — and employ the use of "photos of fetal development through nine months, though 90% of abortions take place in the first trimester.") Or maybe it's the simple fact that more women want babies these days. (This theory is buffeted by the statistic that abortions have dropped in left-leaning states like Oregon and California, where birth control and abortions are relatively easy to come by.) Whatever the reason, let's hope the decline is because of the simple fact that more women are mentally, emotionally and financially able to take care of a new baby, and not because one in four of them have to travel at least 50 miles to get to the nearest provider.