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.

Family


Hollywood is finally moving closer to equality. The past few years have seen a growing number of films starring, written by and directed by women. There's still a lot of progress yet to be made, of course. But there's one area where women have been kicking butt and taking names for decades: action films. Ironically, action films are stereotyped as the launching pad of the manliest of manly men: Schwarzenegger, The Rock, Clint Eastwood, Sylvester Stallone and so on. But some of the biggest action hits, both critically and commercially, are led by women.

If you're looking to expand your home video library for the holidays or just searching for a great holiday playlist while taking out some healthy aggression, here are 12 of our all-time favorite films featuring strong women front and center.

Keep Reading Show less
Culture

One in five pregnancies end in miscarriage. It's a sad and heartbreaking experience, but there still is a lot to learn from going through something so tragic. Beyoncé recently shared what she learned from her miscarriages in an "ask me anything" published in the January 2020 issue of Elle Magazine.

A fan asked Beyoncé if she was disappointed she didn't win awards for Lemonade and Homecoming. Beyoncé said her miscarriages helped put it in perspective. "I began to search for deeper meaning when life began to teach me lessons I didn't know I needed. Success looks different to me now. I learned that all pain and loss is in fact a gift," she said in Elle Magazine.

Keep Reading Show less
popular

Even though 68% of women in America where size 14 or above, plus sized women tend to draw more heat for the outfits that they wear, especially if those outfits are even remotely racy. Earlier this week, Lizzo was spotted at a LA Lakers game wearing the dress heard round the internet. Dubbed the "thong dress," Lizzo's t-shirt dress was straightforward in the front, but the back featured cutouts featuring her thong and fishnet stockings.

During the game, Lizzo twerked when the Laker Girls danced to her song "Juice," giving the crowd a full view of her ensemble.

Keep Reading Show less
popular

The Miss America pageant was started in 1921, but women of color were barred from participating until 1940. It took another 30 years for the first black woman to participate in the pageant in 1970. In 1983, Vanessa Williams became the first black woman to win Miss America. Now, the winners of all four major beauty pageants are all black women.

Zozibini Tunzi of South Africa was crowned Miss Universe, making this the first time in history that Miss America, Miss USA, Miss Teen USA, and Miss Universe are all black women. Tunzi is the first black woman to win Miss Universe since 2011, when Leila Lopes took home the crown.


Keep Reading Show less