The pro-abortion Guttmacher Institute (Planned Parenthood’s former research arm) on Tuesday released a new report on U.S. abortion data.
Encouragingly, the abortion rate fell by 20% between 2011 and 2017, and since the abortion rate peaked in 1980, rates have fallen more than 53%.
The decline is certainly cause for celebration, but the report—and mainstream media analysis of it—raises some cautionary notes as well.
1.) U.S. Abortion Data Is Inadequate and Incomplete.
The U.S. government does not adequately track abortion data. While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention releases an annual report on abortion, the information is out of date and incomplete.
The most recent report, released in 2018, covers data from 2015. And because reporting is voluntary, some states—namely, states with radically permissive abortion laws, such as California and New York—do not submit any data to the CDC.
The Guttmacher Institute, in contrast, presents more timely and complete data through its periodic (and voluntary) nationwide abortion provider census.
But it’s unacceptable that an organization explicitly aligned with the abortion industry is the gatekeeper of such important public health information.
2.) Guttmacher and Its Mainstream Media Allies Paint an Incomplete Picture of What’s Driving the Decline.
Guttmacher’s analysis of the declining abortion rate takes great pains to de-emphasize, erroneously, the impact of state-level pro-life legislation. Instead, Guttmacher emphasizes possible factors such as Obamacare’s contraception mandate.
But do contraception mandates actually lower rates of unintended pregnancy and abortion? Not so fast.
An extensive study by Michael New, associate scholar at the Charlotte Lozier Institute, found that such mandates “do not lower rates of unintended pregnancy or abortion.”
Notably, the rate of unintended pregnancies has decreased over time, and of those pregnancies, more and more are being carried to term.
In an analysis of Tuesday’s report, New offered the following additional context:
[Guttmacher] argue[s] that pro-life laws, shifts in public opinion, and reductions in sexual activity have only had a marginal impact on the U.S. abortion rate.
Unsurprisingly, many mainstream media outlets have uncritically parroted Guttmacher’s spin.
That said, the main problem with Guttmacher’s analysis is that they only consider data between 2011 and 2017—a relatively short period of time.
When one considers the fact that the U.S. abortion rate is less than half of what it was in 1980, it is evident that the efforts of pro-lifers are having a significant impact.
When I give talks to pro-life audiences, I remind [them] that there has been a durable, long-term increase in the percentage of unintended pregnancies that are carried to term since the early 1980s.
This fact reveals the success that the pro-life movement has had in working to shift public opinion, to better assist pregnant women and their families, and to pass protective laws.
Indeed, since the mid-1990s, Gallup surveys show a significant increase in the percentage of individuals identifying as “pro-life.”
Data from the General Social Survey show increasing opposition to abortion among young adults. Heartbeat International’s data shows that [the] number of organizations offering assistance to pregnant women increased by 86 percent between 1988 and 2015.
Furthermore, a body of academic research shows a range of pro-life laws, including limiting public funding of abortion and abortion businesses, parental-involvement laws, and properly designed informed-consent laws to ensure mothers have all of the information they need, all lower abortion rates.
3.) Loss of Life Continues on an Industrial Scale.
Guttmacher reports that the number of abortions declined from more than 1 million in 2011 to 862,320 in 2017.
The decrease is encouraging, but the loss of hundreds of thousands of preborn children annually is a stark reminder of the sheer magnitude of the challenge to protect innocent life.
Furthermore, Guttmacher notes that it’s possible that its census of abortion providers did not capture the number of self-managed abortions. Abortion-inducing drugs, as well as information about how to self-manage abortion, “are becoming increasingly available online.”
4.) Declining Rate Is Encouraging, but an Enormous Task Remains.
Hundreds of pro-life laws in states across the country are having an undeniable impact in saving human life. Thousands of pregnancy resource centers work daily to walk alongside and support mothers and families experiencing difficult or unplanned pregnancies.
Quite simply, the falling abortion rate is a positive trend for all who believe that human life deserves to be protected.
We should celebrate the fact that lives are being saved and that pro-life policies are working. But the 862,320 abortions performed in just one year remind us just how high the stakes are.
The pro-life movement will continue working tirelessly to see that day when every person, from the moment of conception, is protected in law and welcomed in life.
This piece originally appeared in The Daily Signal