Abortion Rate Declines to Lowest Level Since 1974; Disparities Persist, Study Finds
Although abortion rates have declined among all racial and ethnic groups and are at the lowest level since 1974, the rate for black and Hispanic women remains three to five times higher than that of whites, according to an analysis by the Guttmacher Institute, the Washington Post reports. For the report, Rachel Jones, a senior research associate at Guttmacher, and colleagues analyzed annual data from CDC and periodic surveys that Guttmacher has conducted of abortion providers between 1974 and 2004. The analysis confirmed findings from previous reports that the abortion rate has declined to its lowest level since 1974, dropping by 33% from 1980 to 2004. In 1980, there were 29 abortions per 1,000 women between ages 15 to 44, compared with 20 abortions per 1,000 women in that age group in 2004.
The report found that abortion rates have fallen among all racial and ethnic groups, but disparities remain. In 2004, there were 10.5 abortions per 1,000 white women ages 15 to 44, 28 per 1,000 Hispanic women and 50 per 1,000 black women. According to the Post, these statistics mean that about 1% of white women had an abortion in 2004, compared with 3% of Hispanic women and 5% of black women. Further, the proportion of all abortions obtained by white women decreased from 45% in 1994 to 34% in 2004, while the proportion of the procedure for Hispanics increased from 16% to 22% and from 35% to 37% among blacks (Stein, Washington Post, 9/23). The unintended pregnancy rate among black women was 70%, compared with 49% among all racial and ethnic groups, according to the report. In addition, Hispanics had higher pregnancy rates and higher birthrates than whites. The report also found that the abortion rate among all teenagers dropped from 33% in 1974 to 17% in 2004.
Claire Brindis, a professor of pediatrics and health policy at the University of California-San Francisco and co-director of the Bixby Center for Global Reproductive Health, said the disparity in the abortion rate is more the result of income than race or ethnicity. "Many of these women are low-income women who tend to have a higher rate of unintended pregnancy," Brindis said, adding, "Oftentimes, living in poverty they experience so many other challenges in their lives that they don't always know that they're eligible for family planning services or have transportation to services."
Day Gardner, founder and president of the National Black Pro-Life Union, said the higher rate of abortions among minorities is linked to a high number of inner-city clinics that perform the procedure. "It doesn't have as much to do with poverty as that the abortion facilities are there, ingrained in the neighborhoods," Gardner said, adding, "We as a community don't talk about this. ... This is a silent killer among us" (Engel, Los Angeles Times, 9/23).
Jones said, "We've made the most important progress in reducing teen pregnancy and abortion rate, (rather) than reducing unintended pregnancy in older women." According to Jones, the findings indicate that "we need to figure out efforts to reduce unintended pregnancy, not only among teenagers but among all women, and in particularly women of color" (Washington Post, 9/23).
The report is available online (.pdf).