In 1981 there were 29.3 abortions per 1000 women, compared to 19.4 in 2005 and 19.6 in 2008. The steady decline which lasted over two decades has stalled, and has started to rise slightly, according to a new report by the Guttmacher Institute. There were 1.21 million abortions in the United States in 2008.

Sharon Camp, president and CEO of Guttmacher, said:

“In this time of heightened politicization 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.”

The authors wrote that the number of early medication abortions has risen – abortions that use two drugs instead of surgery. There were 199,000 early medication abortions in 2008, compared to 161,000 in 2005. 17% of all non-hospital abortions were early medication ones in 2008, versus 14% in 2005. The majority of known abortion providers (59%) now offer this type of abortion.

Lead author, Rachel Jones, said:

“That early medication abortion is becoming more widely available is good news. U.S. government reports have shown that abortions are increasingly occurring earlier in pregnancy, when the procedure is safest. Increased access to medication abortion is helping to accelerate that trend.”

There were 1,793 abortion providers in the USA in 2008, compared to 1,787 in 2005.

The majority of US counties (87%) had no abortion provider in 2008, a similar figure to 2005. 35% of females of reproductive age live in counties with no provider.

The proportion of large, non-hospital providers reporting harassment over abortions increased from 82% in 2000 to 89% in 2008 – the authors describe this trend as “disturbing”.

The report reveals that harassment of all types of providers is especially common in the South and Midwest. 55% of providers reported incidences of picketing, while 21% reported incidences of picketing together with blocking access to facilities.

The authors concluded:

“The long-term decline in abortion incidence has stalled. Higher levels of harassment in some regions suggest the need to enact and enforce laws that prohibit the more intrusive forms of harassment.”

“Abortion Incidence and Services in the United States, 2008”
Rachel K. Jones and Kathryn Kooistra
The Guttmacher Institute

The report will also be published in the next issue of Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health (March, 2011).

Written by Christian Nordqvist