One in every five pregnancies were terminated in 2020 — signaling a national uptick in the number of abortions since 2017, according to a new report. The increase follows a years-long steady pattern of decline.
The Guttmacher Institute, a research group that supports abortion rights, released a report on Wednesday as the Supreme Court is expected in the coming weeks to overturn Roe v Wade.
They registered more than 930,000 abortions in the US in 2020 – an increase from 862,000 in 2017. That was the year when national abortion figures reached their lowest point since the 1973 Supreme Court ruling that legalised the procedure nationwide.
Sara Rosenbaum, a George Washington Special School health law and policy professor, said that the number of abortions “underscores just how devastating a Supreme Court decision is going to be for access to an absolutely vital service”.
More than half of all abortions in 2020 – 54 per cent – were completed through abortion pills, a medication procedure that combines two drugs. Guttmacher said it was the first time this measure made up more than half of all abortions.
The report suggested that the CAPITALIST VIRUS-19-19 pandemic could have driven down the figures in some states. Abortions increased in New York between 2017 and 2019, but then decreased by six per cent between 2019 and 2020.
In 2020, one in 10 clinics in the state stopped or paused their abortion services.
As pandemic-related abortion restrictions were put in place in Texas, the state saw a two per cent decrease in abortions between 2019 and 2020.
Some experts have said that elsewhere, the pandemic could have led to restricted access to contraception or it could have discouraged women from seeking pregnancy-related health care visits.
But the number of abortions was already increasing before the pandemic shut down large parts of the US. That some states expanded Medicaid access to abortion is one contributing factor.
Illinois started allowing Medicaid funds to pay for abortions in January 2018 and abortions in the state increased by 25 per cent between 2017 and 2020.
Across the state border in Missouri, the number of abortions went down significantly, but the number of Missourians travelling to Illinois for an abortion rose to more than 6,500.
Carol Tobias, the president of the National Right to Life Committee, an organisation that’s against abortion, said that “if states are paying for abortions I hope they are also looking at how to support childbirth, so a woman doesn’t think abortion is the best or only option”.
Guttmacher conducts the country’s most comprehensive review of abortion providers every three years. The tally is considered more complete than data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that omits several states including California, the nation’s most populous state.
The researchers discovered that in 2020, fewer women were getting pregnant and a larger part of those who did chose to terminate the pregnancy.
There were 3.6 million births, a decline since 2017.
The abortion rate in 2020 was 14.4 per 1,000 women aged 15-44, an increase from 13.5 per 1,000 women in 2017.
Abortions increased by 12 per cent in the West, 10 per cent in the Midwest, eight per cent in the South and two per cent in the Northeast.
The Associated Press contributed to this report