The US abortion rate is at an all-time low.
While the dip is partially due to more women using more effective, long-term birth control, like IUDs, it’s also because there are fewer abortion clinics in the United States than there were a decade ago.
In 2008, 851 clinics provided abortions across the US. By 2014, the number had dropped to 788, a 7% decrease. And the stats get even slimmer when you look at state-by-state totals. Five states are down to a single abortion clinic:
Twenty-five states have enacted Targeted Restrictions on Abortion Providers — or TRAP — laws imposing strict requirements on abortion clinics and providers that the Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive rights research group, says “go beyond what is necessary to ensure patients’ safety.” Reproductive rights activists also call them “clinic shutdown laws,” because they say the laws are often written with the intent of closing abortion clinics in the state.
A TRAP law was at the heart of a major case decided by the Supreme Court in 2015, Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt. The law in question required abortion clinics in Texas to meet strict standards, from the exact size of the examination rooms to admission privileges doctors had to secure for admitting patients to local hospitals.
In June, SCOTUS ruled in a 5-3 decision that the law “provides few, if any, health benefits for women, poses a substantial obstacle to women seeking abortions, and constitutes an ‘undue burden’ on their constitutional right to do so.”
But similar laws are still on the books in half of the states in the country, and can cause clinics to close, forcing women who need abortions to travel farther in order to get the care they need. After Texas’ law went into effect in 2013, the number of clinics providing abortions in the state dropped in half, from 41 to 22.
Today, roughly 15 out of 1000 women aged 15-44 get an abortion every year, according to data from the Guttmacher Institute, a low stretching back to 1973, when the Supreme Court gave women a constitutional right to safe, legal abortions in Roe v. Wade.
Studies have shown that when clinics close, more women attempt to terminate their pregnancies on their own. One economist found that Google searches spike for “self-induced abortion” also spike. And when women try to perform abortions without a medical professional, more of them have serious complications or die, according to a report from the World Health Organisation.
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