US abortion rate falls to lowest level since legislation was introduced

It's the lowest it's been since the Supreme Court legalised the procedure in a landmark ruling in 1973

US abortion rate falls to lowest level since legislation was introduced

Supporters of Planned Parenthood gathered for the Capitol Pink Out Day 2017 rally Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2017, in Sacramento, Calif. Proponents rallied against House Speaker Paul Ryan's budget bill which would halt federal funding for Planned Parenthood. | Image: Rich Pedroncelli AP/Press Association Images

The abortion rate in the US is at it's lowest since it was made legal over forty years ago.

A new study from the Guttmacher Institute found the rate in 2014 was 14.6 abortions per 1,000 women ages 15 to 44. By comparison, the rate was 16.3 in 1973 - the year of the historic Roe v. Wade ruling.

The institute lists improvements in contraceptive use and punitive abortion restrictions as factors for the decline.

"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. "The majority of abortion patients - 75% - are poor or low-income, and nearly two-thirds are already parents. It can be very difficult for them to arrange for time off from work, transportation and child care. While many find ways to access care despite these obstacles, some of the abortion rate decline is likely attributable to women who were prevented from accessing needed services."

The survey results come three days before President-elect Donald Trump's inauguration, who expressed his desire to overturn the ruling during the campaign.

In a 60 Minutes interview on CBS, Trump said he will appoint pro-life Supreme Court judges, saying that if the decision is overturned, the issue will be returned to the individual states.

In a further 10 days, Trump's seniro adviser Kellyanne Conway will speak at the 44th annual March for Life.

"Restricting access to abortion may force women to delay the procedure or carry unwanted pregnancies to term,” says Megan Donovan, Guttmacher senior policy manager. “Instead, we should focus on increasing access to the full range of contraceptive methods, as well as to abortion services. Empowering women to prevent unintended pregnancies and plan their families is both a human rights priority and smart public health policy.”

Randall O'Bannon, director of education and research for the National Right to Life Educational Trust Fund told USA Today: "Though we've still quite a ways to go to restoring full legal and moral respect for the unborn, this is a critical milestone, getting below 1 million abortions for the first time since 1975."

The study, "Abortion Incidence and Service Availability in the United States, 2014" is now available online in Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health.