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US Abortions Rising as Court Prepares to Issue Ruling

FILE - A sign indicating a "Medical Facility Quiet Zone" is displayed outside the Jackson Women's Health Organization clinic in Jackson, Miss., the state's only state licensed abortion facility, Wednesday, Nov. 18, 2020. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis, File)
US Abortions Rising as Court Prepares to Issue Ruling
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A new report says the number and rate of abortions in the United States increased from 2017 to 2020, after a long period of decline. An abortion is a medical procedure that ends a pregnancy.

The Guttmacher Institute is a research group that supports abortion rights. It released its latest report about abortions in the United States on Wednesday.

The researchers counted more than 930,000 abortions in the nation in 2020. That is up from about 862,000 abortions in 2017. That was when national abortion numbers reached their lowest point since the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that legalized the procedure nationwide.

About one in five pregnancies ended in abortion in 2020, the report found. The report’s release comes as the Supreme Court appears ready to overturn its 1973 ruling.

The number of women seeking abortions demonstrates a need for the procedure, said Sara Rosenbaum. She is a health law and policy professor at George Washington University in Washington, D.C. She added that the report shows “how devastating a Supreme Court decision is going to be for access to an absolutely vital service.”

Medication abortions, sometimes called the “abortion pill,” accounted for 54 percent of U.S. abortions in 2020. That was the first time they made up more than half of abortions, Guttmacher said in its report.

The COVID-19 pandemic may have pushed down the numbers in some states, the report said. In New York, abortions increased from 2017 to 2019, then fell 6 percent between 2019 and 2020. One in 10 clinics in New York suspended or stopped abortion care in 2020.

Texas saw a 2 percent decrease between 2019 and 2020, because of pandemic-related abortion restrictions in the state.

Experts say the pandemic may also have limited the availability of birth control and other forms of contraception. It also may have prevented women from attending all the health care visits involved in a pregnancy.

But abortions already were increasing before the pandemic began. One important factor is that some states expanded Medicaid access to abortion. Medicaid is a government program that provides health care to people in need.

Illinois, for example, began permitting state Medicaid money to pay for abortions starting in January 2018. The state saw abortions increase 25 percent between 2017 and 2020.

In neighboring Missouri, abortions dropped sharply. But the number of Missouri residents traveling to Illinois for abortions increased.

Carol Tobias is president of the National Right to Life Committee, which opposes abortion. She said, “If states are paying for abortions I hope they are also looking at how to support childbirth, so a woman doesn't think abortion is the best or only option.”

Guttmacher carries out the nation's largest survey of abortion providers every three years. Its numbers are considered more complete than data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The CDC does not include several states like California, the nation’s most populous state.

In 2020, fewer women were getting pregnant and a larger amount of them chose abortion, the researchers found.

The abortion rate in 2020 was 14.4 per 1,000 women aged 15 to 44. That is an increase from 13.5 per 1,000 women in 2017.

I’m Dan Novak.

Dan Novak adapted this story for VOA Learning English based on reporting from The Associated Press.


Words in This Story

devastating adj. causing great damage or harm

vital adj. extremely important

contraception n. things that are done to prevent a woman from becoming pregnant

resident n. someone who lives in a particular place

surveyn. an activity in which many people are asked a question or a series of questions in order to gather information about what most people do or think about something