Abortion rates in the United States have hit a historic low since the procedure first became legal in 1973, a new study by the leading reproductive rights think tank, the Guttmacher Institute, has found.
“We saw declines in abortion in almost every single state,” said Jenna Jerman, a co-author of the study, as reported by the LA Times.
The study, published Tuesday in the journal Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health, did not look at the reason why abortion rates might have declined, but speculated that increased access to contraceptives may have played the biggest role.
“We don’t think it’s because people are having less sex,” Dr. Diane Horvath-Cosper, an obstetrician at Physicians for Reproductive Health, who was not involved in the study, told the LA Times. “It’s because people are protecting from pregnancy better than they used to.”
Under President Barack Obama’s 2010 Affordable Care Act – which President-elect Donald Trump and the Republican leadership in Congress have proposed to slash – insurance companies are required to cover a number of contraceptives.
The study has found that after abortions rates peaked in 1979, they steadily declined since 1982. The institute has been involved in tracking the rate of abortions since 1973.
Researchers were unable to conclude whether the declining abortion rate could also be attributed to restrictions on abortions, considering that between 2011 and 2015, 31 states passed 288 laws that made it increasingly difficult to get an abortion. The new study also found that 90 percent of U.S. counties had no clinics that provided abortions.
Jerman did note that states where no major restrictions were passed saw the majority of the decline in abortion rates.
“Abortion restrictions and clinic closures mean that patients may need to travel greater distances to access services,” Rachel Jones, lead author of the study, said in a statement, adding that three-quarters of abortion patients are "poor or low-income."
In Texas, however, the case has been dramatically different. Since the passing of the highly restrictive HB2 law in 2013, abortion has declined — and research has shown the clear connection between the two, according to Dr. Daniel Grossman, an obstetrician at UC San Francisco and director of the research group Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health.
“In Texas, I don’t think that the decline in abortion has been related to improvements in contraceptive use,” Grossman told the LA Times. “I think it has more to do with barriers to accessing contraception.”
That has many worried for the landscape of reproductive rights in the era of a Trump presidency and Republican-controlled Congress.
“If we’re going to tell people you can’t have an abortion … then where’s the coverage and support for people who parent?” pressed Horvath-Cosper.