Less Teen Intercourse a Factor in Drop in US Abortion Rate

The abortion rate in the U.S. has seen a 25% drop in the last six years. This is the first article in a multi-part series exploring the factors behind this massive drop.  At 14.6 abortions per 1,000, the abortion rate is now lower than it was in 1973 when Roe v. Wade was passed (16.3 per 1,000 women), according to three independent surveys (two by the federal government and one by the Guttmacher Institute). Lower abortion rates are encouraging but what are the reasons for the decline?

While the exact reasons for the decrease in abortions has not yet been established, Support Circle has identified a number of contributing factors evidenced by recent data. One encouraging factor is that young people, consisting of teens and young Millennials (aged 20-24) are having less premarital intercourse which is resulting in lower pregnancy rates in this age group.

Teenagers and young Millennials report the lowest rates of premarital intercourse in decades. The reduction in intercourse has been attributed to the reduction in teen pregnancies, abortions and births. In fact, CDC data indicates that the portion of high school students in 2014 who have had sex fell to 41 percent from 54 percent in 1991.

According to the Guttmacher Institute and the Archives of Sexual Behavior journal by researchers from three U.S. universities, less young people are having sexual intercourse and more report having no sexual partner. This goes against the popular belief that young people are more sexually active due to dating apps and a hook up culture. Dating or “hook up” apps, such as Tinder, may actually be making it more difficult for young adults to engage in sexual activity because of the emphasis on physical appearance and physical perfection.

In a 2016 Washington Post article, a few experts noted concern that some young people are having difficulty “forming deep romantic connections… (and) cite other reasons for putting off sex, including pressure to succeed, social lives increasingly conducted on-screen… and wariness over date rape.” Another upside of “young people putting off sex and taking it slower could lead to better first marriages and slower divorce rates,” according to Helen Fisher, an anthropologist at Rutgers University in an interview with the Post.  

In discussing reduced sexual intercourse, it is important to note that young people in the 60’s or 70’s were more likely to consider oral sex as sex. Whereas teens and Millennials find a distinction between oral sex and intercourse and are less likely to include oral sex when reporting on their sexual activity. This distinction might explain why rates of intercourse among young people is down but the incidence of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) in their age group has increased.

 Along with the decline in abortion rates and sexual intercourse, teen pregnancy rates have seen a steady decline. Teen pregnancy rates include pregnancies that end in abortion, miscarriage and live births. Data from the CDC’s Youth Risk Behavior Survey “shows sharp declines in sexual activity among high school students from 2013 to 2015.” The declining teen pregnancy rates have been attributed to less sexual intercourse, use of more effective contraception and teens receiving more information about pregnancy prevention.

Reality TV has been attributed to a reduction in teen pregnancies. A “2014 Brookings report found that MTV programs 16 and Pregnant and Teen Mom, reality TV shows that follow the struggles of teen mothers, may have contributed to up to a third of the decline in teen births from June 2009, when they began airing, through the end of 2010.” At the time, critics thought the shows would glorify teen pregnancy and result in an increase in teen pregnancies.

Less teen intercourse is only one of the many factors that are helping the abortion rate to decline. Stay tuned as we explore those other factors throughout this series.  Support Circle is a licensed medical clinic dedicated to providing time, space and support to women in unintended pregnancies. We offer women a safe place to make an informed decision about their pregnancy. Our team of professional nurses and caring patient advocates listen and provide non-judgmental emotional support and access to community resources before and after the pregnancy decision. Clients love our relational approach built on respect, trust and confidentiality.

Our services include pregnancy testing and verification, ultrasounds, patient advocates, community referrals, health insurance information, symptom relief, nutrition and patient education.  Support Circle provides pregnancy dating and information about pregnancy and abortion to aid clients in decision making.  We do not perform or refer for any medical procedure or dispense medication for the final pregnancy decision, whether labor/delivery or abortion.  Women may receive our services for up to one year after their decision, regardless of what her decision is. All services are offered at no cost to our clients.


Helpful Links

US Abortion Rate Drops 25% in 6 Years

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Reference Links

American Journal of Public Health

Washington Post. October 19, 2017


Health and Human Services

Pew Research

CDC Vital Services, National Health.