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Abortions down, babies up

By Alice Bradley

The birth rate has soared while the abortion rate has taken a sharp downward turn. That sounds like good news. Is it?
First, the abortion rate. Both the pro-life and pro-choice advocates are pleased that the number of U.S. abortions have reached their lowest rate since 1974. Both, not surprisingly, have their own explanations for the decline.
Pro-life advocates are claiming the decline is a direct result of pro-life laws such as parental notice and informed consent. Makes sense—except that some of the states with the biggest abortion rate declines do not have restrictive abortion policies. Oregon, for instance, had the second largest abortion rate decline — 25% from 2000 to 2005. And it’s considered the “least pro-life state” by at least one pro-life organization.
The pro-choice side credits the decline in abortions to increased access to emergency contraception. Not only are there fewer abortions, but more are occurring earlier in pregnancy, with 90% occurring in the first trimester, which indicates that women have become better informed of their options. (More abortions were administered via medication, as well. )
Still, with abortion access becoming more of a challenge for women throughout the U.S., one has to wonder if this decline is entirely good news. The U.S., after all, still has the highest unintended pregnancy rate of any developed country. Considering that the rate of teen pregnancies also increased for the first time in 15 years, and that 37% of all U.S. births are to single mothers, the decrease in abortion rates could mean an increase in unwanted pregnancies carried to term. At this point, it’s not clear what factors are at play.
Now, about those babies. It was announced this week that 4.3 million babies were born in 2006—the highest number since 1961. This increase has officially been declared a “boomlet.” (That’s a mini-boom, for you laypeople out there. It’s too early to declare this an official boom.) Once again, those on opposite ends of the ideological spectrum have taken their stands on the issue. According to the Feminist Majority Foundation, the increase in births was caused by dramatic cutbacks in family planning funding and abortion access. (Didn’t we hear something about a decline in abortion rates? Sounds familiar.)
According to the Catholic News Agency, another reason for the boomlet is “better economic opportunities for American mothers returning to work.” (And what would those be, exactly?) The CNA adds that “cultural” reasons may be at play, as certain regions of the U.S. are more “accepting” of children. People in the South and Midwest, for example, adore their offspring, while here in the Northeast, we loathe babies. Pudgy, horrible, delicious babies.
According to the Associated Press, the increased number is mostly due to a larger population, including a larger Hispanic population—a group that accounted for one-quarter of all U.S. births. In addition, they cite four fairly depressing factors accounting for the rise: a decline in contraceptive use, a drop in access to abortion, poor education, and poverty.
Economists say that this rise in population is good news. It means that we won’t have to face the labor shortages that come with a dwindling population. But surely the increased number of children born don’t just represent labor-providing hordes. Surely their quality of life means something. (Right?) If these children face lives of hardship and poverty, or neglect and abuse from parents who didn’t want them, it’s hard to see what reason there is to celebrate. No one, of course, can determine how much these children will suffer, but right now, the odds don’t seem to favor far too many of them.

Related Articles:

Teen pregnancies on the rise
Birth Rates are Increasing Dramatically

Alice Bradley
About the Author

Alice Bradley

Alice Bradley was a regular contributor to Alpha Mom, writing about current events as they related to parenting. You can read about her daily life at her personal blog, Finslippy.

...

Alice Bradley was a regular contributor to Alpha Mom, writing about current events as they related to parenting. You can read about her daily life at her personal blog, Finslippy.

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Arwen
Guest

It would be interesting, in twenty years, to do a survey all those babies who came into the world in 2006. “Our analysis of the statistics shows that a significant number of you would be better off if you’d never had the chance to be born. What do you think?”
I wonder how many of them would check “Strongly Agree.”

MommyofOne
Guest
MommyofOne

Of course, abortion would not be an issue if these unwanted babies were not being conceived in the first place. Which is why I believe President Bush has been correct in funding abstinence programs. Until people are willing to accept that conception is a natural consequence of sex (even using multiple types of contraception does not completely eliminate the risk of pregnancy) they have no business engaging in activities where the abortion of a fetus is a solution to a “problem.” But of course, most people don’t see it that way. We want to be able to have sex without… Read more »

dregina
Guest

“We want to be able to have sex without consequences. It’s never gonna happen.”
That’s exactly why I believe that contraception methods SHOULD be taught in school. It’s amazing to me how people with completely differing viewpoints can take the same damn facts and use them to further their own argument.
I thank God every day that I was born in the United States in the year 1978, and that, as a result of women who came before me, I have access to affordable contraception, and that it has worked for me up to now. What a blessing!

Marisa
Guest
Marisa

I wonder what Oregon’s sex-ed program is? (I’m at work, so I don’t have time to look it up just now…) If they are one of the “least pro-life state[s],” then it wouldn’t surprise me if they didn’t have “abstinence-only” programs, but rather the more inclusive and effective ones that include information about birth control. It seems to me that there are two major ways to decrease abortion rates: give people, especially women, every tool possible to PLAN their pregnancies so that unwanted pregnancies don’t happen; or make abortions impossible to get, so that unwanted pregnancies must be carried to… Read more »

Anonymous
Guest
Anonymous

Hi Mommyofone! I have sex without consequences by being a lesbian. Anyhow, have you noticed that it seems like every week people (straight people, mind you) are throwing their kids of bridges or balconies or storing their baby’s poor dead body in a rubber tub in the shed after beating them to death? Unwanted children, uncared for, abused, unloved (by their killer parents) children. It breaks my rabid feminist heart. In most all of these cases the parents of these dead children are poor, under educated, and probably were abused themselves, trapped in the cycle of poverty and abuse. What… Read more »

Holly
Guest
Holly

I have big problems with abstinence only education. Yes, it would be great if we could convince kids that that is the way to go, but hormones and impulsiveness run rampant among teenagers, and even those with the best of intentions fail. If they can pledge abstinence and stick to it, great. However, if they find that they can’t, they will be a lot better off if they know what their options are. Not only to prevent unwanted pregnancy, but also STDs. I don’t want my son to become a father in his teen years, nor do I want him… Read more »

SuburbanCorrespondent
Guest

All lives are worth celebrating. How dare we judge and say, “‘Twere better had you not been born?” And there are many, many willing people who wish to adopt “unwanted” babies. There is no need to say, “No room for you” in this rich, generous country. Sweet, sweet babies! What wouldn’t I give for just one more?
Lives are valuable, even poverty-ridden ones. Think what you are saying! I’m sure you didn’t mean it the way it sounds.

Nicole
Guest

Alice, FWIW, I agree with you and I know what you’re saying. I had a post a while back about how every child should be a wanted child and I totally believe that. However, I had a comment from a dear, dear friend after that post who explained to me the circumstances surrounding her own birth and subsequent adoption would have made her a very likely candidate to have been aborted. It made me think, although it certainly didn’t change my mind at all on the choice issue. The efforts of a not-insignificant minority to make sure that women suffer… Read more »

Sarah
Guest

The current idea, it seems, is to try to restrict access to contraceptives, restrict access to abortions, restrict access to basic information, restrict access to health care, and reduce programs that help people living below the poverty line. On top of that, it often seems as if the same people calling for women to be forced to have babies are the ones who decry the poor for “not trying to improve their circumstances.” Ah, but in their minds, what happens to a child AFTER it enters the world doesn’t matter because those SWEET SWEET BABIES simply MUST be born. After… Read more »

Anonymous
Guest
Anonymous

I’m a woman pushing thirty who has been sexually active since her teens and has never yet been pregnant. Looking back I feel that sixteen-almost-seventeen seems so young to be having sex, but at the time I felt like it really was the right time (with a boy I was in a trusting relationship with, etc.). I’m now in the process of planning my first child, and I have to say that it feels so great to know that it will be born to parents who are very much in love and who will very much love it also. I… Read more »

Anonymous
Guest
Anonymous

I agree with you, Alice. I am not convinced that these statistics are good news. On one hand it could mean that there are fewer unwanted pregnancies, and the birth boomlet is a result of the overpopulated masses exponentially generating offspring at it’s usual rate. On the other hand it could mean that lack of education and lack of access to abortions are resulting in unwanted births and unhappy lives. These numbers and facts can and will be manipulated by each pro-life groups and pro-choice groups. And the arguments and sarcasm will not solve anything. I think there are fundamental… Read more »

Frankie
Guest

*Raises hand* Another lesbian here… sex without physical consequences. Oh and we have the lowest sexually transmitted HIV risk too. Sorry MommyofOne. Not to be argumentative, but your notions are antiquated. It is absolutely insane to think that the majority of the population will adhere to abstinence as a means of birth control. All philosophical arguments aside, we are basically animals with a physical NEED for sex. Notwithstanding the percentage of people who can resist that usage indefinitely (I’m aware they are out there) most people need to feel sexual intimacy. The only reasonable and reliable means of population control… Read more »

RLJ
Guest

Don’t have much to say about the US, but there is a striking difference between the UK and Iceland – not in unwanted pregnancy but in the consequences. In Iceland, the abortion rate is half of that in the UK. The reasons? Quite simple: there is no child poverty to speak of; single mothers face no stigma, can finish school. In my lawschool class, more than half are parents. Childcare is available, excellent and cheap (state subsidised). Parental leave is 9 months, paid 80% to share between both parents and can be taken as and when (including part time) up… Read more »

Laura
Guest
Laura

Why oh why, if I have an issue with someone killing something that I think should have a right to live, am I asked to solve the world’s problems? I have a problem with the moral dilemna’s that are hardly ever discussed with the abortion issue, ie. should a doctor be forced to learn how to administer an abortion, if ethically he/she is against it? When a child is born prematurely, and is wanted, and every available life support is used to provide it a chance to live, and in the same hospital, a child/fetus at the same term is… Read more »

tadpoledrain
Guest
tadpoledrain

Sorry, I am about to ramble. Laura: I absolutely agree with you that the question of when a fetus becomes a baby is important. However, because there is no agreed upon answer, it seems wrong to me to deny other people the right to come to their own conclusions. I would probably never have an abortion myself, but also I would never want to deny another woman the right to choose to do so. Also, adoption and foster care are absolutely not as simple/good a solution as you want it to be. There are huge issues with the economics/morals of… Read more »

Criss
Guest

“should a doctor be forced to learn how to administer an abortion, if ethically he/she is against it?” If the potential doctor has a problem with learning about the female body, including her reproductive system, then maybe he should consider a different profession. Or at least a different branch of medicine. My co-worker’s married daughter was pregnant with her fourth child when they discovered the embryo/baby was implanted in her fallopian tube, not her uterus. She was an upper-middle-class white woman married to a good husband with a good job. They had three lovely kids and wanted to have at… Read more »

matt
Guest
matt

And can you believe those Leftist pigs from the Associated Press had the complete audacity to actually use Data to support their analytical findings? What about their Beliefs? What about Feelings? How could any right-thinking true believer sink to using something so commonplace as actual facts to support a position?

Sarcomical
Guest

wow, what a topic for me to be (late) jumping into on a monday. on no sleep, no less. first of all, please, please forgive me for such a long comment. i have lots to say about this, and typically stay out of these online conversations elsewhere, but i feel compelled to share. i don’t want to be a jerk and post a personal link so i won’t, but i posted about my own experience with abortion a couple of years ago (the post, that is…the abortion was 11 years ago in college). as someone who was raised VERY strongly… Read more »

MommyofOne
Guest
MommyofOne

I stand by my comments. Lesbians can have sex without getting pregnant, yet they are still at risk for sexually transmitted diseases. Especially if they are not in a lifelong faithful relationship.
Like Laura, just because I am pro-abstinence education and pro-life does not mean I am able to present a solution to all of life’s problems. Also, you cannot tell me that gay people never abuse their children. It’s ridiculous to connect sexual orientation to child abuse.
Again, I stand by my comment that no sex equals no babies, and that is a scientific fact.

SuburbanCorrespondent
Guest

I respect that people have differing opinions on abortion and on abortion rights; all I am saying is that rationalizing that someone’s life will not be worth living is a poor reason to advocate abortion. And, please, those of you who are pro-choice, or pro-abortion on demand, or whatever, keep in mind that the majority of people who are “pro-life” are not prolife because they want to teach those sinful girls who did not keep their legs crossed a lesson! This picture of pro-life people is one that I was brought up with and one that is figuring prominently in… Read more »

ozma
Guest

What Arwen said. I’m not getting the logic of this last paragraph. You’d have to say to people: I have decided that it is statistically likely your parents were at least ambivalent and at worst unhappy about your birth because you seem to be part of a larger statistical blip of people born rather than aborted than had been previously. Surely THAT many people couldn’t have wanted their babies? Oh, and I am also worried that because your mother might not have planned your conception she was less than thrilled to have you. Oh, and if she was less than… Read more »

Ellen
Guest
Ellen

Regarding abstinence only education mandated by law: I would like to see a role-call in the House and Senate to see which of these fine upstanding citizens, and their wives, were virgins when they got married. Then we can talk about abstinence-only.

Emily
Guest
Emily

I agree, the idea of bringing more underprivileged children into a country who cannot properly fund social programs is a scary thought. What with college tuition and the sad states of public schools, the number of people living below the poverty line, a lack of universal health care, and the attitude that we don’t owe it to each other to take care of and look out for one another- that’s a society that is not ready to accept unwanted pregnancies and young and/or single mothers that are most likely to be benefit from the help many aren’t willing to make… Read more »

Sonja
Guest

Hmm, abortion etc. Big topic. I’ll just confine my comment to saying that I have a 2006 baby and had no idea until reading this post that she was part of a “boomlet.” Huh.

Frankie
Guest

“It’s ridiculous to connect sexual orientation to child abuse.” Yes it is. What is NOT ridiculous is to connect a frustrated, overwhlemed parent who didn’t want the child to begin with, with child abuse. There are many reasons a woman may find herself in this position. One of them is because the scared woman who finally mustered up the courage to do this traumatic thing was assaulted outside the doctors office by rabid people attacking her for making what was already a difficult choice. And ironically, NO ONE is offering to raise the baby once it’s born. I have a… Read more »

Emily
Guest
Emily

Eh, please disregard the typos and run-on sentences in my previous comment. I’m not quite as embarrassing when I proofread.

Mauigirl
Guest

Is it possible the “boomlet” may be connected to the Baby Boomers’ children now being old enough to have kids of their own? The so-called “echo boom”? A woman born in 1964 (last year of the Baby Boom) may have had a child in 1989 at age 25. That child is now 18; Boomers born in the previous several years would definitely be in childbearing years. The math says this could be part of it. Of course, it may be a combination of many of the factors you mention. Abortion is a difficult topic but I continue to feel that… Read more »

Jean
Guest
Jean

I read the drop in abortions as a sign of the widespread availability of RU496; a sign that women who need access to this drug are able to find it when they need it.
Go, HEALTHCARE!

caramama
Guest

As someone who has struggle with infertility, I look at these statistic with a certain perspective. I wonder if the rate of adoption has gone up as the rate of abortion has gone down. Anyone know? I also wonder if the boomlet might be related to the advancement in medical technology for people struggling with fertility issues. Maybe a lot of those babies were planned. Isn’t the rate of infertility also supposed to be rising? I’m just going to leave it at that for now. When I have some time, I’ll look into this. But if anyone has any research… Read more »

Emily
Guest
Emily

Jean,
Just to clarify, RU-486 is not Emergency Contraception, or the morning-after pill. Commonly known as the “abortion pill,” RU-486, or Mifeprex, is administered to the woman who then expels the embryo at home similar to a miscarriage. This is known as a medical abortion. Surgical abortion is the term for the outpatient abortion procedure carried out by a physician.

Carol in VT
Guest
Carol in VT

The reason that we are trying to get people to NOT HAVE SEX, is that this idea has WORKED SO WELL FOR THE HUMAN RACE IN ALL THE LONG AEONS LEADING UP TO NOW.
Like, in caves? They totally did not had sex. And those pristine Frenchies – centuries of no sex. Generation upon generation of sex-free living; that’s been the human way!

elise
Guest

As another one who was raised (totally and completely) on abstinence, I have to say that I DO wish I would have been at least informed of contraceptive options, educated more, etc. I totally agree with Sarcomical up there when she says that the “romance and mystery” of sex, when you know NOTHING about it other than to abstain, can get you in situations that are far less responsible than if you were making educated choices. I may have had sex if I would have known all about contraception, or I may have not. Who knows? But I most likely… Read more »

Davin
Guest

Abstinence only education confuses me because Safe Sex education is just extra education. I’m willing to bet that there is essentially never a sex ed teacher who says well, now that you know all about sex, go out and have it! They definitely always make a point to explain that abstinence is the best way. It’s like saying kids shouldn’t be educated about drugs, just because we know that heroine exists, doesn’t mean we all go out and do it.