(CNSNews.com) - A recent Guttmacher Institute study shows that the abortion rate in the United States has fallen to its lowest level since 1973, but the study's authors insist that new state-level abortion restrictions had little, if anything, to do with it.
"With abortion rates falling in almost all states, our study did not find evidence that the national decline in abortions during this period was the result of new state abortion restrictions. We also found no evidence that the decline was linked to a drop in the number of abortion providers during this period," said Rachel Jones, lead author of the study.
"Rather, the decline in abortions coincided with a steep national drop in overall pregnancy and birth rates. Contraceptive use improved during this period, as more women and couples were using highly effective long-acting reversible contraceptive methods, such as the IUD. Moreover, the recent recession led many women and couples to want to avoid or delay pregnancy and childbearing."
But pro-life advocates aren't convinced.
“This Guttmacher report bends over backwards in trying to deny that record-setting, pro-life legislation has made tremendous strides in curbing abortions in the United States," said Dr. Janice Shaw Crouse, executive director of Concerned Women for America’s Beverly LaHaye Institute.
"Further, the authors try to convince the American public that suddenly couples are using contraception better and timing the spacing of their children better, all the while denying the concrete data showing that abstinence education is improving the future for the nation’s teens and common sense legislation is exposing the profit-centered motivation of the abortion industry." Crouse said fewer young women are engaging in too-early sex, fewer are choosing abortion, fewer doctors are willing to do abortions, and more clinics are closing.”
The Guttmacher study states that abortion restrictions -- particularly 24-hour waiting periods that require two in-person visits; and the elimination of Medicaid abortion funding -- can "reduce access to services, and, in turn, to abortion incidence."
However, the authors emphasize that the study period (2008–2011) pre-dates the surge in state-level abortion restrictions that started during the 2011 legislative session. It also notes that many of those restrictions did not go into effect until late 2011.
The study's authors also found that the total number of abortion providers declined "by only 4 percent" between 2008 and 2011, and the number of clinics (which provide the large majority of abortion services) declined by just 1 percent.
"Although the loss of even one clinic can have a measurable and substantial impact on service availability in some states, the scale of the decline in providers does not appear to account for the considerable drop in abortion incidence nationally," the study says.
According to the Feb. 3 Guttmacher Institute report, the U.S. abortion rate declined to 16.9 abortions per 1,000 women aged 15–44 in 2011, well below the 1981 peak of 29.3 per 1,000 and the lowest since 1973 (16.3 per 1,000).
Between 2008 and 2011, the abortion rate fell 13 percent; and the number of abortions (1.1 million in 2011) also declined by 13 percent during that time period.
“The bottom line is that Americans, and specifically women, have become increasingly pro-life," said Penny Nance, CEO and president of Concerned Women for America. "The pro-life message resonates especially with young women who have grown up seeing their own sonogram pictures."
Although fewer abortions were performed in 2011 than 2008, the number of early medication abortions increased by 20 percent, the Guttmacher study found.
The highest abortion rates were in New York, Maryland, the District of Columbia, Delaware and New Jersey; however these states also experienced substantial declines since 2008. The five states with the lowest abortion rates were Wyoming, Mississippi, South Dakota, Kentucky and Missouri (1-5 abortions per 1,000 women.)