-- Robert Preidt
TUESDAY, Jan. 11 (HealthDay News) -- The steady, long-term
decline in the U.S. abortion rate stalled in 2008, and there has
been an alarming increase in the number of abortion providers
reporting harassment, a new study shows.
The abortion rate in 2008 was 19.6 per 1,000 women aged 15 to
44, which is well below the 1981 peak of 29.3 per 1,000 women,
according to the nonprofit Guttmacher Institute, which focuses on
sexual and reproductive health worldwide.
However, the 2008 rate was virtually the same as the 2005 rate
(19.4 abortions per 1,000 women), and the total number of abortions
in 2008 (1.21 million) was essentially unchanged from 2005.
There was little change in the number of abortion providers
between 2005 (1,787) and 2008 (1,793). About 87 percent of counties
in the nation had no abortion provider and 35 percent of U.S. women
of reproductive age lived in those counties.
Among large nonhospital abortion providers (those who perform
400 or more abortions a year), the report noted a "disturbing"
increase in the percentage who say they've experienced
anti-abortion harassment, from 82 percent in 2000 to 89 percent in
In particular, harassment was more common among abortion
providers of all sizes in the Midwest and the South. The most
common form of harassment was picketing (reported by 55 percent of
providers), followed by picketing combined with blocking patient
access to facilities (21 percent), according to the study, which is
based on a survey of all known abortion providers in the United
"In this time of heightened politicization around abortion, our stalled progress should be an urgent message to policymakers that we need to do more to increase access to contraceptive services to prevent unintended pregnancy, while ensuring access to abortion services for the many women who still need them," Sharon Camp, Guttmacher president and CEO, said in an institute news release.
The study also found that the use of early medication abortion
performed in nonhospital facilities rose from 161,000 in 2005 to
199,000 in 2008. During that time, the proportion of all
nonhospital abortions that used the early medication procedure
increased, from 14 percent to 17 percent.
In 2008, 59 percent of all known abortion providers offered
early medication abortion, which uses a combination of two drugs
instead of surgery.
"That early medication abortion is becoming more widely available is good news," study author Rachel Jones said in the news release. "U.S. government reports have shown that abortions are increasingly occurring earlier in pregnancy, when the procedure is safest. Increased access to medication abortion is helping to accelerate that trend."
The study appears online and in the March print issue of the
Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health.
The American Academy of Family Physicians has more about
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