A massive new study shows how to reduce abortions — and it's not more regulation.

Abortion rates in the United States just reached a record low, dropping below a million per year for the first time since Roe v. Wade.

That information comes from a new study by the Guttmacher Institute, a research and policy organization committed to sexual and reproductive health. It's fair to say a hallmark reduction in any medical procedure is generally a good thing.

While the majority of Americans do support a woman’s right to choose, the topic of abortion remains contentious — which makes it even more monumental that both pro-choice and anti-abortion groups alike are celebrating this news.


There are a lot of other important revelations in the Guttmacher’s massive data-crunch too. Even if you’re not particularly impassioned about the abortion debate, the study proves the importance of looking at the bigger picture.

Probably the only time where this bipartisan photo is appropriate. Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images.

According to the researchers, "No strong evidence exists that restrictions [against abortion] were the main factor behind the decline in abortion."

The study found that some states, particularly in the Northeast, were actually more successful at reducing the abortion rate by opening additional clinics and making abortions easier to get overall. But there were some situations, like in Texas, where forcing women to endure humiliating and convoluted processes and procedures did appear to translate to a sharp decline in the abortion rate. Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers (TRAP) laws weren't as successful in other states, such as North Carolina and Mississippi, and even led to slight increases in abortions, according to Guttmacher.

That's why big studies like these are so important: Instead of drawing their conclusions from a few highly specific circumstances, they allow us to zoom out and see the bigger picture, with all the different factors involved across state lines. In this case, it became clear there’s just no way to conclude whether abortion restrictions actually accomplish anything other than making people’s lives more difficult.

Photo by Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images.

Restricting abortion access also has the potential to put more lives at risk when women seek alternatives, and that’s definitely not a good thing.

Abortion access is notably hardest to come by in southern and Midwestern states — they tend to have more legal hoops for women to jump through as well as restrictions on facilities. While the official data is scarce, reports from Reuters, The Atlantic, and The New York Times suggest that limitations like these have led to an increase in do-it-yourself abortions. And according to the Guttmacher study, medical facilities in southern and Midwestern states were also more likely on average to treat people who had already tried to self-induce an abortion.

Less than a decade before Roe v. Wade, illegal abortion procedures reportedly accounted for 17% of maternal deaths, though the amount of unreported cases could have made that number even higher. As of 2013, just 1 in 5 pregnancies end in abortion — but the vast majority of those women remain alive to tell about it, thanks to medical advancements and safer, legalized procedures.

Photo by Pete Marovich/Getty Images.

Abortions are down. But birth rates aren't up. And there are also fewer women dealing with unintended pregnancies. Maybe that's the trick.

As Rachel Jones, the lead author of the study, told NPR, "We think the story that's going on in a lot of situations, in a lot of states, is that fewer women are having unintended pregnancies and in turn fewer abortions, and that is actually a good story."

The study specifically cites the state of Iowa, which had one of the sharpest declines in abortions in the country. While several abortion clinics in the state were shuttered in recent years, they also expanded access to long-acting reversible contraceptives and birth control, with targeted outreach to people in poor and low-income communities, who are much more likely to have unintended pregnancy or an abortion, particularly when they already have children. Not only does it relieve them of that potential burden, it also saves money for everyone in the long run.

Iowa's not alone, either. According to the Guttmacher study, the use of IUDs and similar contraceptives is up more than 36% among all women since 2009, and 48% among women at government-supported programs or clinics. Meanwhile, teen pregnancy rates across the country have dropped by 25% in recent years too — and credit is given to contraception availability, not abstinence-only education.

Photo by Jay Directo/AFP/Getty Images.

Women’s health care is an intersectional problem, an economic problem, and above all, something women should have more power over.

There's lots of nuance in the Guttmacher study and the topic of abortion in general. And while there's still more research needed, it's hard to deny that more choice and more control for women is a better thing for everyone.

I don’t have a uterus. I don’t know what it’s like. I’ve never been and will never be pregnant. But I trust that women can make better choices about their own bodies, particularly when they’re empowered and informed.

If you want to see fewer abortions, then you need to support the organizations that are already providing and fighting for reproductive health care. That’s the only way to guarantee people’s right to life.

Courtesy of Amita Swadhin
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In 2016, Amita Swadhin, a child of two immigrant parents from India, founded Mirror Memoirs to help combat rape culture. The national storytelling and organizing project is dedicated to sharing the stories of LGBTQIA+ Black, indigenous people, and people of color who survived child sexual abuse.

"Whether or not you are a survivor, 100% of us are raised in rape culture. It's the water that we're swimming in. But just as fish don't know they are in water, because it's just the world around them that they've always been in, people (and especially those who aren't survivors) may need some help actually seeing it," they add.

"Mirror Memoirs attempts to be the dye that helps everyone understand the reality of rape culture."

Amita built the idea for Mirror Memoirs from a theater project called "Undesirable Elements: Secret Survivors" that featured their story and those of four other survivors in New York City, as well as a documentary film and educational toolkit based on the project.

"Secret Survivors had a cast that was gender, race, and age-diverse in many ways, but we had neglected to include transgender women," Amita explains. "Our goal was to help all people who want to co-create a world without child sexual abuse understand that the systems historically meant to help survivors find 'healing' and 'justice' — namely the child welfare system, policing, and prisons — are actually systems that facilitate the rape of children in oppressed communities," Amita continues. "We all have to explore tools of healing and accountability outside of these systems if we truly want to end all forms of sexual violence and rape culture."

Amita also wants Mirror Memoirs to be a place of healing for survivors that have historically been ignored or underserved by anti-violence organizations due to transphobia, homophobia, racism, xenophobia, and white supremacy.

Amita Swadhin

"Hearing survivors' stories is absolutely healing for other survivors, since child sexual abuse is a global pandemic that few people know how to talk about, let alone treat and prevent."

"Since sexual violence is an isolating event, girded by shame and stigma, understanding that you're not alone and connecting with other survivors is alchemy, transmuting isolation into intimacy and connection."

This is something that Amita knows and understands well as a survivor herself.

"My childhood included a lot of violence from my father, including rape and other forms of domestic violence," says Amita. "Mandated reporting was imposed on me when I was 13 and it was largely unhelpful since the prosecutors threatened to incarcerate my mother for 'being complicit' in the violence I experienced, even though she was also abused by my father for years."

What helped them during this time was having the support of others.

"I'm grateful to have had a loving younger sister and a few really close friends, some of whom were also surviving child sexual abuse, though we didn't know how to talk about it at the time," Amita says.

"I'm also a queer, non-binary femme person living with complex post-traumatic stress disorder, and those identities have shaped a lot of my life experiences," they continue. "I'm really lucky to have an incredible partner and network of friends and family who love me."

"These realizations put me on the path of my life's work to end this violence quite early in life," they said.

Amita wants Mirror Memoirs to help build awareness of just how pervasive rape culture is. "One in four girls and one in six boys will be raped or sexually assaulted by the age of 18," Amita explains, "and the rates are even higher for vulnerable populations, such as gender non-conforming, disabled, deaf, unhoused, and institutionalized children." By sharing their stories, they're hoping to create change.

"Listening to stories is also a powerful way to build empathy, due to the mirror neurons in people's brains. This is, in part, why the project is called Mirror Memoirs."

So far, Mirror Memoirs has created an audio archive of BIPOC LGBTQI+ child sexual abuse survivors sharing their stories of survival and resilience that includes stories from 60 survivors across 50 states. This year, they plan to record another 15 stories, specifically of transgender and nonbinary people who survived child sexual abuse in a sport-related setting, with their partner organization, Athlete Ally.

"This endeavor is in response to the more than 100 bills that have been proposed across at least 36 states in 2021 seeking to limit the rights of transgender and non-binary children to play sports and to receive gender-affirming medical care with the support of their parents and doctors," Amita says.

In 2017, Mirror Memoirs held its first gathering, which was attended by 31 people. Today, the organization is a fiscally sponsored, national nonprofit with two staff members, a board of 10 people, a leadership council of seven people, and 500 members nationally.

When the pandemic hit in 2020, they created a mutual aid fund for the LGBTQIA+ community of color and were able to raise a quarter-million dollars. They received 2,509 applications for assistance, and in the end, they decided to split the money evenly between each applicant.

While they're still using storytelling as the building block of their work, they're also engaging in policy and advocacy work, leadership development, and hosting monthly member meetings online.

For their work, Amita is one of Tory's Burch's Empowered Women. Their donation will go to Mirror Memoirs to help fund production costs for their new theater project, "Transmutation: A Ceremony," featuring four Black transgender, intersex, and non-binary women and femmes who live in California.

"I'm grateful to every single child sexual survivor who has ever disclosed their truth to me," Amita says. "I know another world is possible, and I know survivors will build it, together with all the people who love us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!

This article originally appeared on 10.23.15


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When a pet is admitted to a shelter it can be a traumatizing experience. Many are afraid of their new surroundings and are far from comfortable showing off their unique personalities. The problem is that's when many of them have their photos taken to appear in online searches.

Chewy, the pet retailer who has dedicated themselves to supporting shelters and rescues throughout the country, recognized the important work of a couple in Tampa, FL who have been taking professional photos of shelter pets to help get them adopted.

"If it's a photo of a scared animal, most people, subconsciously or even consciously, are going to skip over it," pet photographer Adam Goldberg says. "They can't visualize that dog in their home."

Adam realized the importance of quality shelter photos while working as a social media specialist for the Humane Society of Broward County in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

"The photos were taken top-down so you couldn't see the size of the pet, and the flash would create these red eyes," he recalls. "Sometimes [volunteers] would shoot the photos through the chain-link fences."

That's why Adam and his wife, Mary, have spent much of their free time over the past five years photographing over 1,200 shelter animals to show off their unique personalities to potential adoptive families. The Goldbergs' wonderful work was recently profiled by Chewy in the video above entitled, "A Day in the Life of a Shelter Pet Photographer."