For the first time since 1981, the long-term decline in U.S. abortions has stalled. And experts are pinning the blame on the recession. In other words, when it comes to abortions, American consumers behave much as they do when buying cars: when they have less money, they are more likely to opt for a used car, rather than splurging on the latest model. I’ll explain that further shortly.
The new data comes from the Guttmacher Institute in New York, which periodically surveys U.S. abortion providers. Researchers found that in 2008, there were 19.6 abortions per 1,000 women aged 15-44. While this is significantly below the 1981 peak (29.3 abortions for every 1,000 women), it is virtually unchanged from the 2005 rate (19.4 abortions). Likewise, the total number of abortions in 2008 (1.21 million) was essentially unchanged from 2005.
While there are many possible causes for this latest trend, the chief suspect is the recession that hit in 2008, which altered the economic calculations (and savings accounts) of many American families.
“Abortion numbers go down when the economy is good and go up when the economy is bad, so the stalling may be a function of a weaker economy,” said University of Alabama political science professor Michael New.
In this sense, abortion can be thought of as an “inferior good” — i.e. something a consumer would demand less of if they had a higher level of real income. While abortions aren’t cheap (in 2009, according to the Guttmacher Institute, the average amount paid for a non-hospital abortion with local anesthesia at 10 weeks’ gestation was $451), they are far cheaper than having a baby. (The average cost of having a child in the hospital in America in 2005 was between $5,000 and $10,000.)
If that all sounds like a very rational and clinical account of an issue that is usually portrayed in red-hot, polarizing terms, that’s a good thing, at least as far as I’m concerned. Because if, like me, you’d like to envision a country where — in the immortal words of Bill Clinton, abortion is “safe, legal and rare” — then we need to start looking at the cold, hard facts around abortion rather than crafting policy based on our emotions.
Read the rest of this story at www.PoliticsDaily.com…
Image: P3123372 by jessica_trinity via Flickr under a Creative Commons license.