Pregnancy Centers and Delayed Childbirth Are Factors in US Abortion Rate Decline

The U.S. abortion rate is now at an all-time historic low, due to a 25% drop in the last six years. At 14.6 abortions per 1,000, the abortion rate is 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). This article is Part Two of a multi-part series exploring the factors behind this massive decline in the U.S. abortion rate.

In Part One of our series, we discussed the first factor behind the abortion rate decline: less teen intercourse. Rates of teen sexual intercourse are on the decline, reducing teen pregnancy rates and factoring into the lower rate of abortion.  In this article, we explore Factors Two and Three: the work of pregnancy centers around the country, and also the trend of more women delaying childbearing.

The Work of Pregnancy Centers Nationwide

Thousands of pregnancy centers exist nationwide to help women who find themselves in an unplanned pregnancy.  These centers are mostly operated independently, and thus share some similarities but also have many differences.  As an independent organization, Support Circle can only speak to our ministry vision as a community that goes the distance with women and the services we provide. We do not speak for or represent other pregnancy centers, which each have unique visions and ministry approaches of their own.  However, it is helpful to comment on the impact of pregnancy centers as a whole, as they provide support to women in unplanned pregnancies to varying degrees, and this has opened up options for many women that were not available to them and contributes to the overall drop in the abortion rate.

In 2016, Heartbeat International counted 2,573 total pregnancy center locations, including 1,145 that offer medical services such as ultrasounds and testing and/or treatment for sexually transmitted infections. The number of pregnancy centers is closer to 4,000 when including centers that are not registered with national affiliations like Heartbeat or Care Net and are independently operated such as those operated by local churches.

Pregnancy centers are predominantly privately funded. Care Net estimates its affiliates save tax payers over $56 million annually by offering free pregnancy tests, baby and maternal supplies and educational programs. This figure does not take into account the uncompensated volunteer hours.  Since women in the U.S. primarily cite financial concerns as reasons for considering abortion, the provision of free medical services and material assistance helps to address those concerns.

Trend of Delayed Childbearing

A third factor behind the decline in the US abortion rate is the trend of delayed childbearing.  The pregnancy rate for women over 40 is at an all-time high, confirming more women are choosing to delay childbearing.  Career-focused women ages 25 – 45 reported that they are intentional about family planning and optimistic about delaying child bearing according to a new study by Yale University researchers.  This is in spite of the known decline in fertility after age 30. Three-fourths of the career-focused women in the study cited pregnancy planning as being important. Of those, 90% were less concerned about fertility issues because they felt assisted reproductive technology (ART), including in-vitro fertilization (IVF), would give them a good chance of conceiving after age 30. ART rates confirm this trend. According to the CDC, the number of live-birth deliveries with the use of ART was almost one and half times higher in 2015 (59,348) than just nine years earlier in 2006 (41,343).  The researchers found women who do not place as much importance on career success also place less importance on pregnancy planning. It can be deduced that with less intentional family planning, these women are more likely to face unintended pregnancies.

At Support Circle’s three licensed medical clinics and counseling centers in the San Francisco Bay Area, we are dedicated to providing time, space and support to women in unintended pregnancies. Women are offered a safe place to make an informed decision about their pregnancy.  Registered nurses perform pregnancy tests and ultrasounds and can provide symptom relief, discuss the effect of existing health concerns, and nutrition.  Our team of patient advocates provide informed non-judgmental emotional support and access to community resources before and after the pregnancy decision.  Support Circle is unique in that we offer women emotional support for up to one year after her pregnancy decision, regardless of what that decision is.  This opens space for a woman to address the root causes that were making her conflicted about her pregnancy in the first place, and work on issues that may be relevant such as domestic violence, anxiety, depression and substance abuse.

We offer an unpressured environment and honor women as decision makers.  Our services are free of charge.  These services are made possible by financial donations from local residents and other friends who believe that women should have a safe place to go that doesn’t profit from either outcome of their pregnancy decision.


Helpful Links

Less Teen Intercourse A Factor in Drop in US Abortion Rate

US Abortion Rate Drops 25% in Six Years

Schedule An Appointment


Reference Links

Washington Post. Oct 19 2017 US Abortion Rate Fell 25% Abortion Rate Lowest Ever

Department of Health and Human Services. Teen Pregnancy and Childbearing Trends

Yale Sept 6 2017 Career Women Delayed Childbearing

Oxford Academic Oct 2017 Women’s…Attitudes Toward Family Planning

IVF Rates – ART 2015 National Summary Report May 17 2017

Care Net Report Snapshot of Pregnancy Centers