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In the last few months, new data has been released with promising news about low abortion rates and risks. In November, the CDC released a report confirming the lowest abortion rate in 40 years. A few weeks later a study published in the Obstetrics and Gynecology Journal found that the risks associated with abortion are less than that of extracting a tooth.

Lowest Rate in 40 Years

Since the Roe V. Wade decision 40 years ago abortion rates have fluctuated, but new data released by the CDC confirms the numbers are the lowest they’ve been since 1973. The agency looked at trends from 2002 to 2011 and found that not only was the rate 5% lower from just 2010 to 2011, but the year 2011 showed the lowest numbers overall — including the total number, ratio and rate.

Why the decline? Researchers believe the lowering rates are due to increased access to contraception. The CDC explained, “Because unintended pregnancies are rare among women who use the most effective methods of contraception, increasing access to and use of these methods can help further reduce the number of abortions performed in the United States.” The decrease can also be attributed to expanded use of long term contraceptives and a lower pregnancy rate overall.

Reasons aside, the study makes a very important point. Sophie Kleeman, author of a recent Mic.com article, sums it up nicely, “As the CDC and various other reports have shown, increasing a women’s access to safe abortion won’t lead to a meteoric rise in the number of abortions — in fact the number is actually likely to decrease.”

Safer than a Tooth Extraction

In addition to news about the declining abortion rate, a recent study shows that risks associated with the procedure are extremely low. Researchers at the University of California, San Francisco analyzed more than 59,000 abortions and follow-up care from 2009–2010 and found that only 2.1% resulted in complications. Most complications reported were, “minor and expected,” according to the CDC. The complication rate of 2.1% is much lower than many common procedures such as tooth extraction at 7% and a tonsillectomy at 9%.

According to their research, 23 states now have regulations that mandate abortion clinics meet strict standards, some even including hospital transfer agreements and admitting privileges. Dr. Ushma Upadhyay, assistant professor at UCSF and author of the study, hopes to show these regulations aren’t necessary. She explains, “I hope [the data] clarifies that abortion is a safe procedure, and that it’s not this scary procedure it can be made out to be in the media or public policy.”

At Planned Parenthood, the low abortion complication rate and declining numbers aren’t news to us, but it’s very important. We’re thankful for studies like these that shed light on the facts about abortion.


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