NEW YORK -- Abortion rates have decreased nationally by 11% since 1994, with a 39% decline among teenage girls.
But the rate has increased by 25% among poor and low-income women, according to Rachel Jones, Ph.D., senior research analyst at the Alan Guttmacher Institute.
Dr. Jones presented data on abortion rates from 1994 to 2000, gathered from more than 10,000 women at abortion clinics nationwide, at a press conference sponsored by the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.
The Guttmacher Institute, a nonprofit organization focused on reproductive health and sexuality issues, is currently conducting a massive, multifaceted study of unintended pregnancy in the United States. A national survey of abortion rates and demographic trends is one part of this project.
Among women aged 15-44 years, the overall abortion rate decreased from 24/1,000 in 1994 to 21/1,000 in 2000.
Among 15-to 17-year-olds, the decline in abortions was even more dramatic, dropping from 24/1,000 teen girls to 15/1,000. Dr. Jones noted that this finding reflects the continuation of a trend toward fewer teen abortions that began in the late 1980s.
Poor women, defined as those who earn $14,150 or less for a family of up to three individuals in 2000, showed a 25% increase in the number of abortions per 1,000 women. Those defined as low-income, earning less than $28,300 annually, had a 21% increase; those on Medicaid had a 14% increase during the same 6-year period.
All racial, ethnic, and religious groups were represented among women who had abortions (see sidebar), and three-quarters of the respondents reported having religious affiliations. While there were no standout racial or cultural patterns, one of the most striking and unexpected findings was that 61% of all women having abortions already had at least one child.
Dr. Jones stressed that analysis of the new data and the process of interpreting the findings is just beginning. She is particularly interested in teasing out the factors that have fostered the declines observed among teenagers.
"Are these kids having more babies? The answer appears to be, 'No,"' she said. In 1994, roughly 33% of all adolescent pregnancies ended in abortion, and the proportion was similar in 2000. The decreased rates are attributable to fewer adolescent pregnancies.
Either teenagers are having less sexual intercourse or they are using more and better contraception. …