Last week, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) released abortion data for 2019. The new statistics are concerning and disappointing for pro-lifers: Among the forty-seven states that reported abortion data for 2018 and 2019, the number of abortions increased by 1.7 percent. This is the second consecutive year that the CDC has reported an increase in the incidence of abortion. Overall, the number of abortions increased in 24 of 47 states that reported data in both 2018 and 2019.
The main story with the new statistics is the increase in chemical abortions. The number of chemical abortions increased by a whopping 12.5 percent between 2018 and 2019, the second consecutive year in which CDC data indicates that the number of chemical abortions increased by more than 10 percent.
In 2016, the FDA enacted a rule change allowing women to obtain chemical abortions later in pregnancy, with fewer visits to the physician’s office, which has likely played a role in this increase. Pro-abortion groups’ efforts to expand access to chemical abortion is partly responsible as well. As of 2019, 43.7 percent of all abortions in the U.S. are chemical abortions.
Another important lesson from the new data is that policy continues to affect the incidence of abortion. In 2018, West Virginia stopped funding abortions through the state’s Medicaid program, and abortions in the state dropped 21 percent in 2019. Conversely, Illinois began funding abortions through the state Medicaid program in 2017. For the second year in a row, the CDC data indicate that the number of abortions increased by more than 9 percent in Illinois.
The CDC report also reveals ongoing weaknesses in abortion-reporting requirements. The report does not include abortion data from either California or New Hampshire. Neither state has reported abortion data to the CDC since 1997. The report also fails to include data from Maryland, as the state has not reported data to the CDC since 2006. Furthermore, not every state provided abortion data separated by gestational age of the unborn child, and many states failed to provide summary data about the method of abortion used.
This short-term increase in the U.S. abortion rate is certainly a cause for concern. However, pro-lifers should keep in mind that we have made impressive, long-term progress reducing the incidence of abortion. According to the Guttmacher Institute, the U.S. abortion rate has declined by more than 50 percent since 1980. CDC statistics indicate that the U.S. abortion rate has declined by 20 percent since 2010. Legislation is not the only reason why abortion numbers are falling, but it certainly has played a role.
As a result, pro-lifers should take heart. Oral arguments in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization will take place this Wednesday. This case involves the constitutionality of a Mississippi law that would protect preborn children after 15 weeks’ gestation. A favorable ruling would allow pro-lifers to pass more protective laws and build on long-term gains.
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