Abortion rates in the US are at their lowest levels in decades — these 6 maps and charts show how abortion in America has changed

Abortion rates fell to their lowest levels in decades

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Abortion rates fell to their lowest levels in decades
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Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

  • The US abortion rate fell to its lowest levels since 1973 in 2017 due to decreasing pregnancy and fertility rates across the board, according to a new study from the Guttmacher Institute.
  • Declining fertility rates and fewer people getting pregnant in the first place, not the proliferation of state-level abortion restrictions, are driving the decline in US abortion rates.
  • The researchers did find, however, increasing disparities in abortion access by region, with more clinics opening up in the Northeast and on the West Coast but shutting down in the South and Midwest.
  • We created 6 charts and maps to show how abortion in America has changed over the past several years, according to Guttmacher research.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Abortion fell to their lowest levels in the US since 1973 in 2017, according to a major new report from the Guttmacher Institute, which studies reproductive policy and advocates for abortion access.

The US abortion rate, which has been on a steady downward trend since 1980, is now at 13.5 abortions per 1,000 women of reproductive age, a 7% decrease from 2014. In that time, the number of US abortion providers slightly increased by 2%.

Guttmacher researchers told reporters in a Tuesday briefing that declining fertility rates and fewer people getting pregnant in the first place – not the proliferation of state-level abortion restrictions – are driving the decline in US abortion rates.

From 2011 to 2017, anti-abortion activists have successfully lobbied for state legislatures to enact about 400 restrictions on abortion, by Guttmacher’s count. These range from strict regulations on clinics to requiring mandatory waiting periods, pre-abortion counseling, and ultrasounds for patients seeking to obtain the procedure.

But Guttmacher’s state policy director Elizabeth Nash emphasized that “there’s no clear pattern linking these declines to new restrictions,” given that 58% of the decline occurred in 18 states that did not enact new restrictions, and three of the six states that saw their abortion rates increase are categorized by Guttmacher as “hostile” towards abortion rights.

Nash noted that US birth rates also fell between 2014 and 2017, indicating that “fewer people became pregnant, not that individuals chose or were made to give birth rather than having an abortion.” She added: “The anti-abortion activists are going to try and take credit for this decline, but the facts don’t support their argument.”

The researchers pointed to increasing contraceptive use, especially the use of long-term acting contraceptives like IUDs, as the main factor driving lower fertility and abortion rates.

Read more: ‘An impossible choice’: Why a Maine family planning clinic gave up $2 million of federal funding for reproductive health care

While abortion opponents have sought to make it more difficult for clinics to operate with TRAP (targeted restrictions on abortion providers) laws, the Guttmacher report found that despite the new restrictions on clinics, there was “no consistent relationship between increases or decreases in clinic numbers and changes in state abortion rates.”

The researchers did find, however, that patients’ ability to access abortion is increasingly dependent on where they live.

More clinics are opening up in the Northeast and on the West Coast but closing down in the South and Midwest, which lost 9% and 6% of their clinics between 2014 and 2017, respectively, partly due to new state-level regulations.

The study found that 89% of US counties have no abortion clinics, with 38% of US woman aged 15-44 living in such counties.

Nash and senior researcher Dr. Rachel Jones emphasized that while the overall trend shows no relationship between the changes in numbers of clinics and abortion rates, clinic closures disproportionately impact low-income patients in rural areas who have to travel further and take more time off work to get an abortion – especially in states with 48 or 72-hour mandatory waiting periods.

“Abortion rates only look at the number of people who were actually able to obtain an abortion,” Nash noted. “These data do not measure how many people wanted an abortion, but were unable to navigate the personal and financial burdens that anti-abortion policymakers are creating.”

These 6 charts show how abortion in America has changed over the past several years and decades:


The US abortion rate has fallen from 21.3 abortions per 1,000 women in 2000 to 13.5 per 1,000 women in 2017.

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Skye Gould/Business Insider

Source: Guttmacher Institute


Here’s how abortion rates have changed in every US state from 2014 to 2017.

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Skye Gould/Business Insider

Source: Guttmacher Institute


As of 2017, 89% of US counties have no abortion clinic, with 38% of women of reproductive age, defined as ages 15-44, living in those counties.

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Skye Gould/Business Insider

Source: Guttmacher Institute


Predominately Northeastern and Western states gained new abortion providers in 2017, while the South and the Midwest lost the greatest proportion of abortion providers.

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Skye Gould/Business Insider

Source: Guttmacher Institute


Here’s a look at the percentage of abortion providers every US state gained or lost between 2014 and 2017.

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Skye Gould/Business Insider

Source: Guttmacher Institute


In that time period, the total number of facilities providing abortions slightly increased by 2%.

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Skye Gould/Business Insider

Source: Guttmacher Institute

Read more:

Illinois authorities found 2,246 preserved fetuses at the home of a former abortion clinic doctor who died last week

Planned Parenthood just lost $60 million in funding, and it could make it harder to access birth control

23 ways anti-abortion activists are attempting to erode Roe v. Wade without repealing it