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Is Better Access to Sex Ed and Contraceptive Methods Behind the Latest Significant Decline in Abortion Rates?

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Written by Yvonne Hamby for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

The latest Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) figures indicate not only the lowest current rate of abortion in the United States, but also the largest drop in the rate in 10 years. It will be difficult to determine the precise reason for this trend. As with most public health issues, but especially those that relate to sexual and reproductive health, there are myriad of potential explanations for the decline. The most important questions we need to ask now are: Does the decline in abortion rates indicate better reproductive health choices and outcomes for women? And if so, how do we continue to build on this success?

Researchers have shared several theories behind the decline. Some believe the economic recession has affected reproductive decision-making. A Washington Post report suggests that women are making decisions to continue their pregnancy rather than terminating.

CDC says the decline is due to more effective contraception and increased access and use by women. A study from the journal Fertility and Sterility supports the CDC view with the finding that the use of long-acting contraceptives such as intrauterine devices had tripled between 2002 and 2009, with most of this increase happening within the last two years. These data suggest that our efforts in primary prevention are paying off, which is, to me, perhaps the most hopeful explanation.

It is interesting to note that trends in abortion rates match the current trends in teen pregnancy rates. The teen pregnancy rate and the teen birth rate have declined by more than 40 percent since the early nineties, according to The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy. The decline, says National Campaign Chief Program Officer Bill Albert, is due to the "magic combination of less sex and more contraception."

There is a way to keep the trend going. 

 

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