A fifth of all pregnancies were aborted in 2020, newly-released figures show, with 930,160 terminations taking place over the course of that year.
The newly-released statistics from progressive reproductive health think-tank the Guttmacher Institute showed that the number of terminations rocketed by eight percent between 2017 and 2020. More than half of all terminations in 2020 were the result of the so-called “abortion pill,” which can be taken for the first 10 weeks of a pregnancy.
Guttmacher’s research shows that 862,320 terminations were carried out across the US in 2017 and a further 916,460 in 2019. See this in the chart here.
The chart below from the Guttmacher Institute shows how a 30-year decline in the number of abortions being carried out has been reversed over the last three years
The map here shows which states have already enacted full or partial bans, which are on the verge of passing laws, and which continue to impose no restrictions on terminations. See here an Interactive Map on a state-by-state guide to abortion laws.
While abortion increased nationally, there was substantial variation across and even within states between 2017 and 2020. A number of developments over that period may have had differential impacts across states, as cited by the Guttmacher Institute.
Some states expanded Medicaid coverage of abortion care. The majority of people who obtain an abortion are poor or low-income, and this coverage meant that many who would not otherwise have been able to afford an abortion could get care.
The Trump-Pence administration’s “domestic gag rule” dramatically slashed the Title X family planning network’s capacity and severely reduced the number of contraceptive clients served by the program. This meant that many people in some states lost access to low- or no-cost contraceptive care. In turn, this may have resulted in more unintended pregnancies and a greater need for abortion care.
Local and national abortion funds increased their capacity and helped even more people pay for their abortions.
The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted health care systems across the United States. Some states attempted to ban abortion access early in the pandemic, falsely claiming it was not essential health care. Abortion access was also disrupted in some states supportive of abortion rights because health care providers were dealing with outbreaks of COVID-19 among their families and communities. Still, other states were able to maintain steady access to abortion care, including for people from states where it was not accessible due to the pandemic.
Between 2017 and 2020, 25 states enacted 168 abortion restrictions and bans, but not all of them went into effect because of legal challenges. In addition, many of these new restrictions were enacted in states where clinics had already been operating in hostile environments, so their practical effect likely was reduced.
During this time period, 75 provisions to protect abortion rights were enacted. Half of these measures repealed pre-Roe bans or other restrictions. Among the other half, many expanded access by requiring Medicaid or private health plans to cover abortion or allowing qualified clinicians such as nurse practitioners, physician assistants, or certified nurse-midwives to provide at least some abortion care.
Because restrictions were adopted in states generally considered hostile to abortion rights already, they may not have played as much of a role as the measures expanding access, particularly policies that help people pay for abortion care.
Regardless of this report, the coming decision from the Supreme Court could have a significant bearing on these numbers in the future.
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