Sept. 18 (UPI) -- Abortions in the United States have dropped to their lowest level since the practice was legalized 45 years ago amid recent increases in laws preventing access to the procedure, said a new study published Wednesday.
The study by the Guttmacher Institute said there were 862,320 abortions performed at U.S. clinics and other health facilities in 2017, equaling 13.5 abortions per 1,000 women ages 15-44, the lowest rate recorded since 1973, when the landmark Supreme Court ruling in Roe vs. Wade affirmed a woman's right to the medical procedure.
The 23-page study said the figures show a continuation of declining abortion rates that saw the number fall to 14.6 abortions among 1,000 women within this demographic in 2014, down from 16.9 in 2011.
However, the study highlights that while 227 restrictions on abortion access were enacted by states between January 2014 and June 2019, it is unclear what effect they had on lowering the abortion rate.
"Although the number of state abortion restrictions continued to increase in the Midwest and South between 2014 and 2017, these restrictive policies do not appear to have been the primary driver of declining abortion rates," the report said.
The analysis also notes there is no correlation between the number of clinics in a state and its number of abortions.
If the restrictions and a decrease in clinics were causes, it states, then the number of births would increase. However, fertility rates declined in almost all states between 2014 and 2017.
"It is unlikely that the decline in abortion was due to an increase in unintended birth," the study said.
The study said the declines in reported pregnancies could be related to improvements in contraceptive use and an increase in self-managed abortions. Also, an increase in information online on performing self-managed abortions using drugs obtained from outside the United States was recorded, and likely accounts for some of the decline in abortions that were documented.
Researchers also discovered that medication abortions provided by non-hospital facilities jumped 25 percent from 2014 -- with 339,640 performed in 2017, accounting for 39 percent of all abortions that year.