A new report from the Associated Press found that abortion rates have dropped by 21 percent since 2010, and anti-abortion groups are once again taking the credit. And, as ever, they had nothing to do with it. The opposite, actually.
As our Stassa Edwards noted Saturday, the decline has been seen in states with both strict anti-abortion laws as well as more liberal states with fewer restrictions. (The only increases were seen in Michigan and Louisiana, which both have strict anti-abortion laws.) Anti-abortion folks are choosing to just hear the first part of that statement; in a Chicago Tribune story about the falling abortion rate in Illinois, Emily Zender, the executive director of Illinois Right to Life, told the paper, “This is the most pro-life generation we’ve seen in history.” That led to an exultant tweet from anti-abortion group Live Action:
The “pro-life generation” claim is very common, even when the facts, er, don’t quite match up: take this recent story from LifeNews, which claims a new Gallup poll shows that Americans want abortion to be illegal in “most or all” circumstances. And then take a look at the Gallup poll itself, which found that, no, only 19 percent actually want it to be illegal in all circumstances, while 36 percent think it should be illegal in “some” instances, and 50 percent describe themselves as pro-choice. There’s also broad consensus among Democrats and Republicans that abortion should be legal if a pregnant person’s life is at risk.
So what’s actually behind the falling abortion rate? The same things as always: declining rates of both teen pregnancy and unwanted pregnancies overall, and an increased use of “highly effective” contraception methods. As Slate’s Amanda Marcotte pointed out back in December, that was demonstrated in a 2014 study from the Guttmacher Institute; the authors found a “strong circumstantial case” that better birth control was leading to the precipitious abortion decline between 2008 and 2011. There’s also good evidence that abstinence-only sex ed leads to increased teenage birth rates, and that comprehensive sex ed has a way of keeping more people less pregnant.
And while the “pro-life generation” folks are busy taking credit for this very encouraging downward abortion trend, they’ve done literally everything in their power to block sex education and discourage young people from using birth control. Live Action has falsely claimed for years that hormonal birth control is an abortifacient, and Lila Rose, the group’s president, only mentions birth control when she’s claiming it’s deadly:
And only mentions sex education to suggest that it’s a plot conceived of by dastardly Planned Parenthood educators who want teenagers to flog each other Fifty Shades-style:
This is not a group to let a silly thing like facts slow them down; over at LifeNews today, Operation Rescue’s president Troy Newman called the AP report “great news,” adding, “It proves that Americans are rejecting abortions in favor of life in unprecedented numbers. There’s no doubt that we are winning and the abortion cartel is waning.”
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