NEW YORK, Feb. 3 (UPI) -- The U.S. abortion rate has fallen to its lowest rate since 1973, with 16.9 abortions per 1,000 women aged 15-44, after a steady decline since reaching its peak in 1981.
The report released by the Guttmacher Institute, a private research group, is considered one of the foremost when it comes to analyzing abortion trends. While researchers could not pinpoint the exact reasons behind this drop, observed from 2008-2011, they said it predates legislative restrictions that came into effect in 2011 or later.
The abortion rate is well below what it was in 1981, 29.3 per 1,000 women, and the lowest since 1973, when the abortion rate was 16.3 per 1,000 women.
"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," says Rachel Jones, lead author of the study.
According to Jones, this drop in abortion rates coincided with a drop in pregnancy rates, suggesting improved use of contraceptives, including IUDs, and a trend among couples and women to delay childbearing.
Researchers said that they will closely monitor abortion rates after 2011, taking into account that between 2011 and 2013 states enacted a combined 205 restrictive abortion measures. Thats more restrictive measures than in the entire previous decade.
"Over the past three years, we have seen an unparalleled attack on abortion rights at the state level, and these new restrictions are making it harder for women to access services and for providers to keep clinic doors open," says Elizabeth Nash, state issues manager at Guttmacher.
Abortion rates dropped in all but six states, with the Midwest accounting for a 17 percent drop, the largest among the four regions. An interesting development was the rising use of early medication abortions that accounted for 23 percent of abortions reported by clinics and private doctors. States have tried to restrict the access to such abortions, which involve the use of a pill within the first nine weeks of pregnancy.