A recent Guttmacher study detailing abortion rates across the United States has found the American abortion rate, having previously shown a long-term decline, has stalled in recent years and had levelled off as of 2008.
“In this time of heightened politicisation around abortion, our stalled progress should be an urgent message to policymakers that we need to do more to increase access to contraceptive services to prevent unintended pregnancy, while ensuring access to abortion services for the many women who still need them,” says Sharon Camp, president and CEO of Guttmacher.
The study comes at a time when abortion rights in the US are facing serious attack. The No Tax-payer Funding for Abortion Act, introduced in Congress by Republican politicians last week (20.01.11) would not only codify previous bans on federal funding for abortion under the Medicaid programme for low-income people but would prohibit private healthcare organisations and employers from offering such treatment by imposing tax penalties. Meanwhile, at state level reproductive rights advocates are tracking record numbers of bills aimed at enacting ever-more draconian measures to prevent women accessing abortion.
As well as revealing the stall in termination rates, the Guttmacher study also reports an increase in the use of early medication abortion, which uses a combination of two drugs in lieu of surgery, one taken at a clinic, and a second taken at home. 59% of all known abortion providers now offer this service. Reports also show that abortions are increasingly occurring earlier in pregnancy, when abortion is safest.
The most interesting findings, however, showed that it is getting more and more difficult for women to safely and securely access abortion services.
Large non-hospital providers reported an increase – from 82% in 2000 to 89% in 2008 – of anti-abortion harassment, which is especially prevalent in the American Midwest and South. Picketing was the most ubiquitous form of anti-choice protest, reported by 55% of providers, while picketing combined with blocking patient access to facilities was reported by 21%.
While Delaware was the number one state in terms of abortion rate, it was a finding that 41% of pregnancies in New York City end in abortion that caused uproar among religious and anti-choice communities.
In response to the findings, released by the Chiaroscuro Foundation, a not-for-profit supporting alternatives to abortion, religious leaders in NYC gathered to denounce the figures and criticised sex-education programmes in the public school system that include distributing condoms.
The number of abortions in New York City has decreased in recent years, but even a 41% abortion rate shouldn’t be surprising in a city with more than thirty abortion clinics and a large pro-choice community, whereas there are eight in the entire state of Delaware and just one abortion clinic in North Dakota.