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CDC releases report for 1999 More Good News: Abortions Continue to Decline.

On the heels of a report issued last summer showing another drop in abortions in 1998, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued a new report showing a continued decline for 1999. Although the numbers are not as complete as those provided by other sources, the CDC numbers offer further documentation of a steady drop in the number of abortions.

According to the CDC's November 29, 2002, "Abortion Surveillance" report, 861,789 abortions were reported in 1999 by the same areas that that recorded 884,273 in 1998. This represents an important decline of 2.5%.

(CDC numbers are lower than the actual abortion figure, which is believed to be approximately 1.3 million, for two reasons. First, the CDC relies on state and city health departments to send their totals, as opposed to actively seeking out the figures. Second, as was the case in 1998, no data was received from four states--California, Alaska, New Hampshire, and Oklahoma. Having said that, the quality of the data is still very useful for interpreting trends and analyzing demographics.)

In addition to the decline in overall numbers, the CDC reports that there was a drop in the abortion ratio, the number of abortions per 1,000 live births. That ratio was 264 abortions for every 1,000 live births in 1998, but 256 per 1,000 in 1999. The U.S. has not seen a lower abortion ratio since the early days following Roe v. Wade.

The abortion rate--the number of abortions per 1,000 women of reproductive age (15-44 years)--has stayed the same from 1997 to 1999: 17 per 1,000. Again one would have to go back to the early 1970s to find such comparatively low numbers. By contrast that number hovered between 20 and 25 per 1,000 for most of the 1980s and the first half of the 1990s.

Taken together, the data indicate two things. First, in recent years abortion has become a less common feature of an American woman's experience. Second, that a higher proportion of women who do become pregnant are choosing to bear, rather than abort, their babies.

The CDC speculates that the overall decline in abortions may be due to a number of factors, including a decrease in the number of "unintended" pregnancies, population shifts within the category from younger, more fertile to older, less fertile women, "reduced access to abortion services" prompted in part by parental involvement or waiting period laws, and increased use of contraception.

Such factors as abstinence or contraception, or even population declines or shifts, might theoretically explain why there would be fewer pregnancies and consequently fewer abortions. But they would not fully explain why a smaller proportion of women who do become pregnant choose to abort their babies.1 Parental involvement laws, waiting periods, and informed consent provisions (something the CDC fails to mention) might well affect a woman's willingness to undergo an abortion, but do nothing to reduce her actual "access to abortion services" (most states passed these laws years earlier anyway).

What's left are fundamental changes in attitudes toward abortion and childbearing, something the CDC mentioned as a possible explanation in earlier reports but fails to list as a potential reason in this latest report. Polls, both opinion and electoral, point to an increasingly pro-life society, which would have to have an effect at some point. (See stories, pages three and 17.)

Other data from the CDC reveal that an increasing number of abortions are being performed at eight weeks' gestation or less. While 47% of all abortions were performed in that range in 1976, that number was 57.6% in the latest report, with more than one in five (21.9%) of all abortions in 1999 actually being done at six weeks or less.

This is evidence of the progress of the abortion industry's efforts to introduce and promote surgical (manual vacuum aspiration) and chemical (RU486) methods which operate when the child is smaller and less formed--an easier sell to women in crisis pregnancies. If pro-lifers fail to emphasize the humanity and dignity of the child at all stages of development, this percentage will grow, especially with the government's approval of RU486 in 2000.

According to CDC figures, while between 44.9% and 48.1% of all abortions are repeat abortions (with 7.5% of women reporting three or more previous abortions), nearly 60% (59.4%) of all abortions are performed on women who have already given birth to a child. This indicates not so much a change of heart as a sense of desperation, a feeling that another child is more than a woman can handle. Programs that minister to the needs of pregnant women will have to address this concern to see these numbers come down.

Figures were not available for 1999, but the final chart in the CDC's report shows that there were at least nine women who died from legal abortions in 1998. These were culled from death certificates mentioning abortion (i.e., those that did not mention abortion would not have been investigated). All told, the CDC lists 342 maternal deaths due to legal abortion since 1972.

Those numbers, of course, completely ignore that the death rate is much higher than is popularly understood. The latest research to examine the issue of death rates associated with pregnancy outcome was published in the August issue of the Southern Medical Journal.

"Deaths Associated With Pregnancy Outcome: A Record Linkage Study of Low Income Women" showed not only that there is a greater short-term risk of death for aborting women but long-term risk as well. Authors David C. Reardon, Philip G. Ney, Fritz Scheuren, Jesse Cougle, Priscilla K. Coleman, and Thomas W. Strahan found that in the first two years following their abortions women were nearly twice as likely to die as women who carried their children to term. This elevated mortality risk persisted for the entire eight years the study examined.

There is at least one death involved in every abortion, of course--that of the unborn child--and more than 42 million have perished since the Supreme Court's decision in 1973.

Fewer children are dying today, however, than died five, ten, or twenty years ago. We are on the right track.


1. Arguments that claim that the lower proportion of women choosing abortion is due to the shift of the bulk of the reproductive population to the older years, when a woman is more likely to be married and less likely to abort, fail to explain why it is that ratios have declined across the board in all age groups since the 1980s and why it is older women who are responsible for an increasing percentage of abortions.>EN
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Title Annotation:Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Publication:National Right to Life News
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Dec 1, 2002
Previous Article:National Poll Shows Substantial Increase In Pro-Life Attitudes.
Next Article:What's the Future for Citizen Groups?

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