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US abortion rate at lowest level since 1973

NEW YORK — The US abortion rate declined to its lowest level since 1973, and the number of abortions fell by 13 percent between 2008 and 2011, according to the latest national survey of abortion providers conducted by a prominent research institute.

The Guttmacher Institute, which supports legal access to abortion, said in a report being issued Monday that there were about 1.06 million abortions in 2011 — down from about 1.2 million in 2008.

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Guttmacher’s figures are of interest on both sides of the abortion debate because they are more up-to-date and in some ways more comprehensive than abortion statistics compiled by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

According to the report, the abortion rate dropped to 16.9 abortions per 1,000 women ages 15-44 in 2011, well below the peak of 29.3 in 1981 and the lowest since a rate of 16.3 in 1973.

Guttmacher and other groups supporting abortion rights have been apprehensive about the recent wave of laws restricting abortion access that have been passed in Republican-controlled legislatures. However, the report’s authors said the period that they studied — 2008 to 2011 — predates the major surge of such laws, which began with the 2011 legislative session.

Lead author Rachel Jones also said there appeared to be no link to a decline in the number of abortion providers. According to the report, the total number of providers dropped by 4 percent, to 1,720, between 2008 and 2011, and the number of abortion clinics declined by just 1 percent, to 839.

According to Jones, the drop in abortions was probably linked to a steep national decline in overall pregnancy and birth rates.

Although the overall abortion rate declined, the proportion of abortions entailing early medication procedures continued to increase.

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