Though nominally an anti-abortion party, the Republicans are as deceptive as they are smart on this exceptionally touchy subject. The Republicans know that they can speak the anti-abortion rhetoric to appease their most religious adherents — and help drum up social conservative voter turnout — as long as they don’t actually DO anything to reduce the availability of reasonable legal medical abortion, which a majority of Americans, including crucial moderate swing voters, has consistently supported ever since Roe v. Wade legalized abortion nationally in 1973.
Just last week the CDC’s (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion/Division of Reproductive Health released its Abortion Surveillance report for 2001, the most recent year for which data is available, and if the body politic wants abortion to be legally available as a last resort for unwanted pregnancies, but not as a heedless form of birth control, then the status quo is working.
CDC began conducting abortion surveillance in 1969 to document the number and characteristics of women obtaining legal induced abortions and to monitor this outcome of unintended pregnancies.
The annual number of legal induced abortions in the United States increased gradually from 1973 until it peaked in 1990, and it generally declined thereafter. In 2001, a total of 853,485 legal induced abortions were reported to CDC by 49 reporting areas. This represents a 0.5% decrease from 2000, for which the same 49 areas reported 857,475 legal induced abortions.
The national legal induced abortion ratio increased from 196 per 1,000 live births in 1973 to 358 per 1,000 in 1979 and remained nearly stable through 1981. The ratio peaked at 364 per 1,000 in 1984 and since then has demonstrated a generally steady decline.
A total of 853,485 legal induced abortions were reported to CDC for 2001 from 49 reporting areas (states plus District of Columbia and NYC – Alaska, California, New Hampshire did not report), representing a 0.5% decrease from the 857,475 legal induced abortions reported by the same 49 reporting areas for 2000.
The abortion ratio — which remained relatively constant 1997-2001 — defined as the number of abortions per 1,000 live births, was 246 in 2001, compared with 245 reported for 2000. The abortion rate was 16 per 1,000 women aged 15–44 years for 2001, the same as for 2000.
The highest percentages of reported abortions were for women who were unmarried (82%), white (55%) and under 25 years of age (52%). Of all abortions for which gestational age was reported, 59% were performed at earlier than 8 weeks gestation, and 88% at earlier than 13 weeks. From 1992 through 2001, steady increases have occurred in the percentage of abortions performed at less than 6 weeks gestation.
In other words, after the steam was released following Roe, abortion has decreased steadily if slowly over the last two decades, and those that are being performed are occurring earlier in pregnancies – exactly the trends a responsible but realistic populace would want to see.
As a result, the availability of legal abortion in the U.S. is a boat that will not be rocked, despite the blowing hot winds of rhetoric.