By Kate Boyle

At current rates, 1 in 3 American women will have an abortion by the time she is 45. That seems like a staggering statistic to some but recent headlines have announced that the United States has actually reached the lowest level of abortions in forty years. However, both sides of the aisle have different explanations for the cause of the decline.

The discussion began to flare up after the release of a study done by the Guttmacher Institute, an organization devoted to “sexual and reproductive health” and the pro-choice movement. The study had a wide range of factual data regarding abortion rates in the last few years, however, the commentary in the study was heavily biased. It was not difficult to discern which side Guttmacher would take in the pro-life, pro-choice debate. The issue was not with the statistics reported but rather with the fact that the study was trying to persuade readers that the pro-life advocates and the Right to Life Movement cannot take credit for the decline – which is inherently false. Regardless of the bias, much of the information is accurate; however, no one, including Guttmacher, seems to have a legitimate explanation for the steady decline in abortion rates.

Progressives are arguing that because of the increase in availability of contraceptives, less women are having unwanted pregnancies than before. Conservative, pro-life advocates are arguing that restrictive legislation should be credited for the decline. There is evidence to support both sides of the argument. Although many disagree with the use of contraception, it is true that it limits unwanted pregnancies for sexually active women. Guttmacher, though, touts the success of contraception and discredits the significance of restrictive abortion legislation. Much of the legislation that has been enacted in the last few years has not begun to display results yet. Many of the new regulations have and will continue to hold abortion clinics to the standards that other surgical facilities are required to follow. This, in turn, leads to better care for women but also to many closures because some clinics choose to close their doors rather than raise their standards.

The good news is, in Pennsylvania specifically, the abortion rate has declined 9% since 2008 and the number of clinics providing abortion services has declined 6%. Pennsylvania’s rates have been consistently lower than the national average for the last two decades. In order to continue to facilitate the decrease in abortions, it is necessary for Pennsylvania residents to keep abreast of the issues at hand and have an active voice to their representatives in the Capitol.