Abortion rates are down. Why? Family planning may be the key.
Family Planning Up, Abortion Rates Down continued...
Family planning tools include abstinence, contraception, and other methods,
such as natural birth control (also called the rhythm method), says Lisa
Koonin, lead author of the CDC report and chief of the CDC's reproductive
health services division. "Any tools or behaviors a woman and her partner
use to plan when they will become pregnant is defined as family planning,"
Koonin says. Increased access to these tools, she says, has also played a role
in the drop in abortion rates.
Koonin points out, however, that a part of the declining abortion rate has
absolutely nothing to do with safe sex practices and greater family planning,
but is simply a function of an aging population. "The baby boomers are
aging and becoming less fertile. As a result, there are fewer live births
Another reason for the drop is that young people are not only gaining
greater access to birth control, but they also have more choices than ever
before. Beyond the condom and the pill lies a spectrum of female-controlled
options, including injectable drugs, like Depo-Provera. "Depo is a very
popular option with teens," says Tew. "One injection lasts three
months, and a doctor's appointment every three months is easier for teens to
adhere to than a daily pill."
Tew believes that an increased availability of emergency contraception has
the potential to lower abortion rates even further. Emergency contraception
includes the "morning-after" pill, which is taken within 72 hours after
unprotected sex, or the insertion of a copper IUD (intrauterine device) to
prevent an embryo from implanting up to five days after unprotected
intercourse. But she repeats that "the reason why abortion numbers have
dropped is primarily because couples are more successful at preventing
unplanned pregnancy." Emergency contraception is simply that -- something
used when the planned method may have failed -- or when there's been no
planning at all.
The Role of AIDS and Other Factors
After having an abortion, Layla became involved in a safe sex campaign at
the University of Texas at Austin, where she was a student, giving speeches on
contraceptive options and the need for protection against HIV. "I didn't
want what happened to me to happen to others," she says.
By increasing awareness about the spread of AIDS and other STDs, people like
Layla are having an effect on sexual behavior. "According to the 1995
National Survey for Family Growth, condom use is up," Koonin says.
"This has a lot to do with AIDS awareness."
And while Koonin believes that the drop in abortion rates is encouraging,
she's not declaring victory yet. "There are still 1.2 million abortions
each year in the United States. Any decline in that number is promising, but
there's still a lot of work to be done in education, since most induced
abortions are the result of unintended pregnancies. It's a public health issue,
not a political one."