Many people think that by making it harder for women to access abortions through methods like abortion restrictions, abortion rates will drop. Although there has been a decline in abortion rates in the past few years, coinciding with many recent abortion restrictions, the cause of this decline is something different altogether. The Guttmacher Institue reported that almost all states in the US have had a decline in abortion rates regardless of new restrictions or not. (Abortion Rate Continues to Drop, Abortion Restrictions Are Not the Driver) The reason instead why the abortion rate has dropped is because of the increased access to and use of contraception.
NBC News reports that who is getting abortions may suprise you. (Who’s Getting Abortions? Not Who’d You Think) It may be common knowledge that ¼ of American women will have an abortion in their lifetimes, but what is less known is that women of color, especially black and latina women are more likely to receive one. Also, women 25 years old or older make up half of the population of those who receive abortions, discrediting the stereotype of teens as the majority of abortion recipients. In fact, teens only make up 17% of the population, while most people who have had an abortion already have a child.
These facts coming to light stimulate new questions about why women get abortions. The answer is not so simple because there are often multiple reasons. “The reasons most frequently cited were that having a child would interfere with a woman’s education, work or ability to care for dependents (74%),” reports the Wiley Online Library. (Reasons U.S. Women Have Abortions) Other reported reasons include relationship problems, not wanting to be a single mother, financial problems, not being ready to have a child, and responsibility to dependents.
Although the states that had the strongest abortion restrictions saw a decline in abortion rates higher than average, there is no clear pattern that shows a link between abortion restrictions and decline in the abortion rate. As an alternative to abortion restrictions some sources, such as elitedaily.com, suggest expanded sex education, increased access to contraceptives, and creating social welfare programs such as paid maternity leave, expanded healthcare, and improved child care and education.
Studies have shown that states with abstinence-only sex education have the highest rates of teen pregnancies, which in turn increase the abortion rate. To combat this, expanding sex education to include contraceptive methods would increase the number of teens who receive contraception, therefore decreasing the abortion rate. Increased access to contraceptives would, for obvious reasons, reduce the abortion rate by reducing the number of unintended pregnancies in general. Increasing access to contraceptives is the single biggest cause of the decline in abortion rates, according to Guttmacher Institute. (Abortion Rate Continues to Drop, Abortion Restrictions Are Not the Driver) Social welfare programs, such as paid maternity leave, would help alleviate some of the financial problems that drive women to get abortions. Healthcare and improved child care and education would reduce abortion rates by alleviating the fears some women have about their child’s future.
My proposed solution is to increase access to contraceptives, create paid maternity leave, and expand sex education to include more than abstinence-based contraceptive methods. The research has shown that abortion restrictions do not, for the most part, cause declines in the abortion rate, so it is time to switch our thinking from restricting those who want abortions to supporting them through access to contraceptives and social welfare programs.