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Women's Health

U.S. Abortion Rates Decline Again in '97

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Jan. 6, 2000 (Atlanta) -- The rate of abortions in the U.S. fell in 1997 to the lowest level in nearly two decades. The CDC reports that the number of legal abortions in 1997 declined by 3% over the 1996 figure. "And the number reported to CDC for 1997 is the lowest number reported since 1978," says Lisa Koonin, MN, MPH, of the CDC.

Although the CDC says the figures are preliminary -- the final report will be issued this summer -- the continuation of the downward spiral is encouraging. "I think a reduction in abortions also reflects a reduction in unintended pregnancies," Koonin tells WebMD, "which is good news." Koonin is chief of surveillance in the division of reproductive health at the CDC.

According to the latest figures, which are for 1997, the abortion ratio was 305 legal induced abortions per 1,000 live births, down from 314 per 1,000 in 1996. As in the past, more than half the women obtaining abortions were under 25 years old. Also, most were white and unmarried.

In addition, for the first time, the report included figures from some states in which abortions were performed with drugs: 16 states reported 2,988 abortions induced by drugs. Previously, all states had only reported numbers, not methods.

Despite the decline, Koonin says there are still too many unplanned pregnancies, especially among the young. "Around 20% of the women in this country since 1992 who obtain abortions are teenagers," Koonin tells WebMD. "The 20% level for teenagers is remaining constant. That's way too high."

Even though the rate of abortions has decreased, there hasn't been a new boom in babies. The CDC reports that the birth rate increase in 1997 was a minuscule 0.3% "There's probably a number of complex factors that cause this," Koonin tells WebMD. "For one, we know there's been a reduction in unintended pregnancies in the country, and abortions largely represent an unintended or unplanned pregnancy. There's also been some changes in contraception practices, particularly among young men and women, in terms of increased use of condoms."

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