Abortion Rates Plummet, But What Does It Mean for Women’s Health?

Girls abortion

The Department of Health has just released statistics revealing “fewer New York City women are having abortions now than at any time since the procedure became legal in the state in 1970.” The New York Post reports “of 197,046 viable pregnancies, 73,815, or about 37 percent, ended in ‘induced terminations’ in 2012, a new city Health Department report reveals.” To put those numbers into context, “the abortion rate dropped 8.6 percent from 2011, and it has fallen 19 percent since 2003 and 22 percent since 2000.” That’s a pretty precipitous drop—basically the inverse of the spike in the real estate market (and, yes, I did just compare housing costs and women’s reproductive freedoms, deal with it)—and is one which anti-abortion activists are eager to declare as a victory for anti-choice crusaders everywhere. But is the steep decline in abortions a sign that New York City is becoming more conservative and has swallowed the anti-choice Kool-Aid, or is it a sign that New York’s abundance of women’s health care facilities and government safe sex initiatives (what’s up NYC condoms) are actually affording women the opportunity to make the best choices for their bodies?

 It’s option number two! While a quick glance at the lowered abortion rate might appear solely to be a sign that fewer women are choosing to terminate their pregnancies, statistics can be misleading when lacking relevant context (just ask any political pollster!). The thing is, it isn’t only abortion rates that have dropped, it’s also pregnancy rates—particularly those of teenage girls. In fact, the pregnancy rates of teenage girls are dropping at the exact same rate (an 8.5% drop since 2011), which is, the city’s DoH thinks a result of “more acceptance of sex education and responsible use of contraceptives. That’s why we’re seeing positive reductions.” So basically, in a city whose policies have long rejected the abstinence-only approach to sex education, the pregnancy rates and abortion rates have plummeted. Which, hasn’t this always been the whole point of promoting women’s health issues? To have a better informed population that can make educated choices about their reproductive rights in order to do what is best for their own bodies? Yes. And it seems to actually be working. No matter what your stance on abortion, this is good news. Unless, of course, you are also one of those crazy people who doesn’t believe in contraception? Are you? Then you’re a hopeless cretin who should just slither back into whatever hole from which you crawled.

Anyway. Speaking of contraceptives, the Department of Health credits the reintroduction of the IUD as a safe, incredibly effective method of birth control (at 99% effective, nothing is getting past that sucker), as one reason that there are fewer incidents of unwanted pregnancy. Not mentioned is the incredibly popular Plan B (anecdotally, there seemed to be a run on Plan B at every drugstore in the city this past Valentine’s Day weekend), which has been an important option for women to have so that they can avoid pregnancy. All of this is to say that even if anti-abortion, right-wing nutjobs are trying to claim credit for lowered abortion rates, the fact is that the hard evidence seems to support the notion that lowering abortion and teenage pregnancy rates isn’t about taking away choices from women, but about educating them and providing as many choices as possible. Which, you know, of course. You already knew that, right? Of course, you did. But it seems some people need a reminder, and that’s just what these statistics are: a reminder that the best thing for women—and for society—is to have the power to choose what to do with their own bodies.

Follow Kristin Iversen on twitter @kmiversen

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