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U.S. Rates Down, Others Up

WASHINGTON, D.C., SEPT. 4, 2005 (Zenit) - The level of abortions is dropping in the United States, but rising in Spain and England. A July 19 article in the Washington Post analyzed a report published by the Alan Guttmacher Institute. The report, "Estimates of U.S. Abortion Incidence in 2001 and 2002," was released May 19.

According to the pro-abortion institute, U.S. abortion rates continued to fall in 2001 and 2002, although the rate of decline has slowed since the early 1990s.

The report, which the institute cautions is based on provisional statistics, estimates that 1,303,000 abortions took place in the United States in 2001, a drop of 0.8% from 2000. In 2002 there was a further decline of 0.8%, to 1,293,000.

The Guttmacher Institute's study also said that there are significant variations among states, and within population subgroups. For example, while the abortion rate declined among most groups between 1994 and 2000, it increased among poor women and women on Medicaid.

In its article the Washington Post noted that black and Hispanic women have higher rates of abortion, accounting for 32% and 20%, respectively, of the total number. Higher abortion rates also exist among low-income women. No fewer than 60% of women who had abortions in 2000 had incomes of less than twice the poverty level -- below $28,000 per year for a family of three.

Among age groups 56% of women who ended their pregnancies are in their 20s, while 15- to 19-year-olds account for 19%.

An analysis of the report in the July 26 issue of the weekly publication Culture & Cosmos observed that 53% of women who had unintended pregnancies used a contraceptive method during the month they got pregnant. Another striking fact is that marriage plays an important role in reducing abortions. Married women accounted for only 17% of abortions, and even when they became pregnant unexpectedly, they are less likely to abort.

Pro-life groups continue to make efforts to reduce the number of abortions. In recent times the center of activity has been at the state level, according to a June 13 report in the Christian Science Monitor.

The article quoted a researcher from the Guttmacher Institute, Elizabeth Nash, who said that in the first five months of 2005 there had been 16 bills at state level regarding the activities of abortion clinics. Initiatives range from requiring parental notification for teen-agers who seek abortions, to attempts to obtain legal recognition for the personhood of a fetus.

According to the Monitor, recent laws approved include:

-- Texas Governor Rick Perry signing a law requiring minors wanting an abortion to get written parental consent. The law also places restrictions on abortion after 26 weeks of pregnancy.

-- Florida Governor Jeb Bush signing legislation giving the state increased oversight of clinics that offer second-trimester abortions.

-- A Georgia law requiring a 24-hour waiting period and parental notification for minors. It also specifies that the doctor must inform the woman of the fetus' age, alternatives to abortion, and the likelihood that the fetus will feel pain during the abortion.

-- An Indiana law now requiring abortion doctors to notify patients that they can see an ultrasound image and listen to the fetus' heartbeat.

Spanish scene

In Spain, a country that has had legalized abortion for 20 years, a recent report analyzed the numbers involved. The report, published by the Institute of Family Policy, noted the number of abortions has greatly increased since the first years. In 1987 there were 17,180 abortions. By 1993 this had more than doubled, to 45,403. And by 2003 it had jumped to 79,788.

The total number of abortions from 1985 to 2003 is 844,378, equivalent to the total number of births in Spain in 2002 and 2003. In 2003, one in every six pregnancies ended in abortion. In just five years, from 1998 to 2003, the number soared by 48.2%. Death by abortion is now the leading cause of mortality in Spain.

Another development is the lowering of the average age of women who abort. In 1991 the great majority of abortions were carried out on women 25 years of age and over. But by 2003 the age group of 24 and under accounted for the largest age group of those aborting. One in every seven abortions was carried out on those under 19.

The report noted that the constant increase in abortions has taken place in spite of numerous government "safe sex" campaigns that promote condom use. And it is precisely the younger age groups, who have been particularly targeted by the campaigns, where abortion has risen most notably.

"Lifestyle choice"

Abortion is on the rise in England and Wales also, the BBC reported July 27. Department of Health figures show there were 185,400 abortions in 2004, a rise of 2.1% from 181,600 in 2003 and about 5.3% from 176,000 in 2002.

As in Spain abortion is most prevalent in the younger age groups. The abortion rate in 2004 was highest for women in the 18-19 and 20-24 age groups. It also increased by 6% in the under-14 age group, but decreased slightly in the under-16 and under-18 brackets.

A common feature of the statistics in the United States, Spain and England and Wales is that only a minimal number of abortions are performed for reasons not related to the woman's physical or psychological state. In England and Wales, for example, only 1% of abortions, 1,900 in total, were carried out under ground E of the Abortion Act -- stating that the child would be born disabled -- down from 1,950 in 2003.

According to a July 28 Times report on the data, some predict that the abortion rate will continue to rise, "as women increasingly regarded having a termination as a lifestyle choice."

Ann Furedi, chief executive of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, Britain's leading abortion provider, said that women, particularly those in the professional classes, were increasingly reluctant to take breaks that could hinder their careers.

Britain has also had an intense debate over moves to lower the legal limit of how far into pregnancy abortions can be carried out. It is now at 24 weeks, with some allowances for abortions even later on. In 2003, 42 women had abortions at 28 weeks or more, compared with 49 women the year before. There were 18 cases that involved pregnancies of 32 weeks or more, compared with 22 in 2003.

Another aspect of abortion that has caused controversy is carrying out abortions on schoolgirls, without informing parents. The BBC recently broadcast a documentary about one case, involving Melissa Smith.

Melissa, who aborted with the help of school authorities at age 14 without her mother's knowledge, now regrets having the abortion, said an article published July 25 on the BBC Web site.

In the program "Real Story," Melissa said she wished she had involved her mother in the decision. The article noted that Sue Axon, a mother from Manchester, is about to launch a High Court challenge seeking to put an end to secret schoolgirl abortions.

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