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Abortion Rates Decline in Texas and Across the Nation - But Not Due To Legislative Barriers

by: Genevieve Cato

Fri Feb 07, 2014 at 09:00 AM CST

In a recent report, the Guttmacher Institute found that abortion rates had continued their thirty-year long decrease across the country in 2011. Though some states saw the rates remain the same and six actually saw an increase, most states including Texas reflected a similar downward trend.

Some might point to this information and say that abortion restricting legislation - such as the omnibus abortion bill passed this summer or the mandatory sonogram bill from 2011 - is having the exact impact it was designed for. Not so, says Guttmacher. Instead, the reduced rate of abortion also coincides with a reduced rate of pregnancy and an increase in the number of women using highly effective methods of contraception, such as intrauterine devices (IUD's). The report also found that the rate of medical abortions rose drastically, which means that more women who are having abortions are having them earlier in their pregnancies and using safer methods.

Both access to medical abortion and IUD's are under attack by conservative forces at the state and local level. More on this drop in abortion rates, and the statistics for Texas, below the jump.

In the New York Times article, the author also points out that the study could represent an "undercount" of abortions, as the researchers did not receive input from "private doctors who quietly offer nonsurgical medication abortions." This discrepancy isn't enough to counter the findings, however.

Texas had a higher rate of decline than the national average with a 17% decline in abortion rates. However, this does not reflect the impact of the last three years in Texas or across the country. Those years saw more restrictive legislation passed on access to abortion services than the entire decade beforehand. Evidence from the study that showed states with liberal abortion standards with some of the largest drops in numbers of abortions reinforces this disconnect between restrictive legislation and lower numbers of abortions performed in a state. If states that have both easy and restricted access to abortion showed a drop, what could have caused the change?

The study points to a few key factors, one being the recession and a decrease in pregnancies across the board, and the other the increased use of IUD's especially among young women. These are the most effective method of contraception, and after being approved by the FDA for use by all women and being included as preventative healthcare under the Affordable Care Act, they are even more accessible to the women who need reliable birth control the most.

The impact of the last three years on abortion rates remains to be seen, and the question remains: if women start turning to risky illegal abortions because of the deluge of restrictive legislation, like those women in the Rio Grande Valley, will future studies be able to track these women's experiences? Or will their stories vanish along with their rights?  

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