The number of abortions committed in the United States in 2005 dropped to 1.2 million, the lowest level since 1976, the Washington Post reports.
The figure comes from a new report by the Allan Guttmacher Institute, a research group associated with Planned Parenthood. The institute surveyed 1,787 abortion providers in 2005, the first such study since 2000.
The total number of surgical abortions among women aged 15-44 declined from 1.3 million in 2000 to 1.2 million in 2005. The eight percent drop continues a downward trend begun in 1990, when abortions peaked at 1.6 million. The previous low for abortion numbers was registered in 1976, when 1.2 million abortions were performed.
The abortion rate in 2005 declined to 19.4 per 1,000 women, falling from 21.3 per 1,000 in 2000. The rate had peaked at 29.3 in 1981.
According to the survey, the abortion rate tends to be higher in the northeastern United States, while lower in the South and the Midwest.
Allan Guttmacher Institute researchers did not identify the reasons for the decline. The institute’s Rachel Jones speculated on the causes of the lower abortion rate, saying, "It could be more women using contraception and not having as many unintended pregnancies. It could be more restrictions on abortions, making it more difficult for women to obtain abortion services. It could be a combination of these and other dynamics."
Susan Poppema, representing Physicians for Reproductive Choice and Health, speculated that the availability of the “morning-after pill” played a role in the decline of surgical abortions.
Pro-life reaction to the study was guardedly positive.
"It's still a massive number, but it's moving in the right direction," said Randall O'Bannon of the National Right to Life Committee. He added that at least some of the drop could be due to changing attitudes, as reflected in the hit movie “Juno” about a pregnant teenager who rejects having an abortion.
"Even look at Hollywood," said O'Bannon. "More and more people are starting to reconsider their positions."