You're not alone.

By Lauren Mazzo
Updated: October 20, 2017
Photo: Shutterstock

U.S. abortion rates are declining-but an estimated one in four American women will still have an abortion by age 45, according to a new report published in the American Journal of Public Health. The research, based on data from 2008 through 2014 (the most recent stats available), was conducted by the Guttmacher Institute, a research and policy organization committed to advancing sexual and reproductive health and rights.

To estimate the lifetime incidence of abortion, researchers at Guttmacher analyzed data from their Abortion Patient Survey (a survey of 113 nonhospital facilities such as clinics and private physicians' offices that provide more than 30 abortions per year). In 2014, they found that about 23.7 percent of women age 45+ had had an abortion sometime in their life. If this trend continues, that means about one in four women will have an abortion by age 45.

Yeah, this is still a significant portion of the population, but it is a decrease from Guttmacher's 2008 estimate, which put the lifetime rate of abortion at one in three women. From 2008 to 2014, Guttmacher found that the overall abortion rate in the U.S. declined by 25 percent. The U.S. abortion rate is the lowest it's been since Roe v. Wade in 1973-likely because the rate of unplanned pregnancies keeps dropping due to an increased availability of birth control.

That being said, there are some details to consider:

The U.S. abortion and birth control landscape is rapidly and continuously changing.

For example, in March, President Donald Trump signed a bill that would allow state and local governments to block federal funding for abortion-providing organizations like Planned Parenthood. Obamacare (which mandated employers' health insurance provide a range of contraception options at no additional cost to women) hasn't been totally thrown out yet, but the Trump administration has made it clear that they'll be replacing the Affordable Care Act with their own health-care system-one that likely won't provide the same contraception accessibility. This poses a problem (both for women and for the analysis of abortion statistics), because a decrease in birth control availability may result in more unwanted pregnancies, but if abortions are harder to get, more of these pregnancies may be carried to term.

Guttmacher's analysis doesn't include the last three-ish years of abortion data.

The availability of abortions and the status of abortion-providing organizations has changed a lot in the last few years (for example, 431 pieces of abortion-restricting legislation were introduced in the first quarter of 2017 alone). That may have had a serious effect on the abortion rate since these stats were collected. Whle those abortion restrictions may result in a decrease in the number of abortions, that could mean there have simply been more unwanted births.

The one-in-four estimate assumes future abortion rates will be similar to those of the last 50-or-so years.

Researchers based this one-in-four estimate on the rate of women age 45 and over who have had an abortion in their lifetime. This factors in abortions done throughout the last 50 or so years, rather than the number that are actually performed year to year right now.

The data doesn't include all abortions done in the U.S.

Their data doesn't take into account abortions done at hospitals (in 2014, that equaled about 4 percent of all abortions) or women who attempt to end their pregnancies in unsupervised ways. (Yes, it's sad but true; more and more women have been googling DIY abortions.)

It's impossible to know what will happen with abortion rates in the future, pending changes in the way reproductive rights are handled in the U.S. But one thing's for certain: Having an abortion isn't an uncommon thing-so if you're going through the experience or already have, you're far from alone.

Of course, no one sets out with the goal of aborting a pregnancy, so a low abortion rate is a good thing-unless it's because abortion isn't an option. That's why giving women the ability to own their reproductive health and making birth control accessible are more important than ever.



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