WASHINGTON — Abortion rates have declined by 12% nationwide since 2010, and pro-life groups say changing attitudes among the younger generation could be the cause.
“We’re seeing the attitudes shift,” said Kristan Hawkins, president of Students for Life of America, which conducts pro-life outreach on college campuses. “People are talking about abortion differently.”
Abortions rates have declined in almost every state since 2010, with only two states seeing significant increases since then, according to a survey by The Associated Press.
The biggest declines were in Hawaii — a 30% decrease — New Mexico, Rhode Island, Nevada and Connecticut, all with more than a 20% drop.
The declines occurred in both states that recently passed pro-life laws restricting abortion and in states that did not, the AP noted. This is evidence of a “comprehensive trend,” said Chuck Donovan, president of the Charlotte Lozier Institute, the research arm of the pro-life Susan B. Anthony List.
Although many factors — including increased practice of abstinence, a change in the use of contraceptives and more state pro-life laws — are probably behind the shift in numbers, the “bottom explanation is a shift in public opinion,” Donovan told CNA.
“More children are being born and probably raised in families with a pro-life disposition,” he said.
Other pro-life groups shared this assessment. Students for Life of America told CNA that college students increasingly think an unborn baby should receive “human rights” during the first trimester of pregnancy, if not at conception.
This conclusion was drawn from the group’s “Human Rights Tour,” which asked students on 27 college campuses when an unborn baby should have human rights, placing pictures before them of different stages of human development.
Advances in technology like the ultrasound machine shows that life is present in the womb, Hawkins noted, and youth are taking notice.
“College students — the first generation that has been able to see in great detail what life in the womb looks like — can easily see that the preborn child is a human being and deserves every right to life as anyone else,” Hawkins stated. “Abortion takes away that life, and this generation knows it.”
The group Secular Pro-Life credited “multiple factors” behind the falling abortion numbers, but emphasized that the “biggest change” in recent years “is the ascendance of pro-life Millennials.”
“The abortion industry has historically relied on women in their 20s as its primary customer base. That base is shrinking, as more and more young people acknowledge the science of preborn human life,” said Kelsey Hazzard, president of Secular Pro-Life and a self-identified member of the Millennial generation.
“Increasingly, we view abortion as a human-rights violation rather than a religious issue,” she said.
The recent decline in abortions is a part of a larger, longer trend going back to 1980, Donovan said, a decline in abortions that “accelerated” in the early 1990s.
And the trend is also reflected in an increasing number of mothers who carry their babies to term in an “unintended” pregnancy, rather than opting for abortion.
The rate of abortions from “unintended pregnancies” dropped significantly from 1994 to 2008, from over 50% to around 40%, Donovan said, citing data from the Guttmacher Institute, a pro-choice research group.
He believes that this trend continued past 2008 if the “overall trend lines” are read correctly: that abortions in almost all states dropped from 2008 to 2011.
He said, “Women are changing their minds about keeping their babies.”