Updated Sep 19, 2019

Abortions in U.S. reach lowest level since 1973

The U.S. counted 862,000 abortions in 2017, the lowest level since the procedure became legal nationwide in 1973, new data and analysis shows.

The big picture: The national abortion rate has continuously reached new lows since 1981, per the report by the Guttmacher Institute, a research group that supports abortion rights. "[A]bortion restrictions were not the main driver of the decline in the U.S. abortion rate between 2011 and 2017," Guttmacher said.

  • The latest data, calculated with Census information from July 2016 to July 2017, is only a minor drop from 2016's abortion rate, the institute notes.
  • A likely factor for the decline is increased accessibility of contraception under the Affordable Care Act, which required most private health insurance plans to cover contraceptives without out-of-pocket costs.

What they found: Abortion rates declined the most from 2014-2017 in Delaware, Arkansas, West Virginia, Alabama and Virginia, according to the institute. The West saw the steepest abortion rate drop of any U.S. region.

  • Virginia requires minors to take more steps to obtain an abortion than any other state, according to an Axios analysis of Guttmacher data.
  • Adults are also required to take more steps in Virginia to obtain an abortion than anywhere else in the U.S.

The other side: Abortion rates increased the most from 2014-2017 in Mississippi, New Jersey, Minnesota, Georgia, Maryland and Wisconsin, according to the institute.

  • Mississippi and Wisconsin are among 7 states where adults are required to take more steps to obtain an abortion than anywhere else in the U.S.
  • New Jersey is among 12 states — and D.C. — where adults and minors can obtain an abortion through the fewest steps.

By the numbers: Even though 400 state laws restricting abortion access were passed between 2011 and 2017, the majority of the decline happened in states that didn't pass any new restrictions, the AP reports.

  • People who are having abortions are increasingly using medication over surgery. The "abortion pill" accounted for 39% of abortions in 2017.

Background: "They [Guttmacher Institute] are the best source for information to understand national trends, as well as state-level trends, for what's happening on the ground in abortion care," said Alina Salganicoff, senior vice president and director of women's health policy at the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Go deeper ... Where abortion restrictions stand: The states that have passed laws

Editor's note: This article has been updated with more details on the Guttmacher report.

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How many steps it takes to get an abortion in each state

Data: Guttmacher Institute; Aïda Amer, Andrew Witherspoon

The most restrictive abortion laws in generations are working through the courts across America's red states, confusing some on whether abortion is legal where they live.

Where it stands: Women and transgender men must take 5-8 steps to get an abortion in the most heavily regulated states. They often have to wait at least 24 hours after seeking an abortion, attend counseling against the decision and take at least 2 trips to a facility — and in 6 states, only 1 such facility is available.

Go deeperArrowUpdated Sep 19, 2019 - Politics & Policy

Georgia's 'fetal heartbeat' abortion ban temporarily blocked by judge

Students protest against Georgia's abortion restritions at the State Capitol building on May 21, 2019 in Atlanta, Georgia. Photo: Elijah Nouvelage/Getty Images

A federal judge on Tuesday temporarily blocked Georgia's "fetal heartbeat" abortion ban, which prohibits and criminalizes abortions as early as 6 weeks into a pregnancy, the AP reports.

The big picture: The majority of states that have passed the most restrictive abortion laws in generations have now had those laws temporarily blocked in court. The Georgia law would have gone into effect in January 2020. Conservatives have been advancing restrictive abortion policies in hopes of sparking a fresh Supreme Court case against the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision.

Go deeperArrowOct 1, 2019

Supreme Court agrees to hear Louisiana abortion case

The Supreme Court agreed Friday to take up a case in its next term involving a controversial Louisiana abortion law, the first time the high court will hear an abortion case with a solidified conservative majority.

The backdrop, per the AP: Louisiana's law requires doctors to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital in order to perform an abortion — a restriction that would leave the state with effectively only a single abortion clinic. The law is similar to a Texas law that the court struck down in 2016 — before President Trump's appointees, Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, joined the bench.

Go deeper ... Where abortion restrictions stand: The states that have passed laws