The Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v Wade, a 50-year-old ruling that the Constitution of the United States would protect the rights of a pregnant person’s liberty to safe and legal abortion, will undoubtedly have a strong ripple effect that expands outside the nation of the US.
In light of these events, we are resharing an article that was initially published in September 2021 as a reaction to Texas’ then newly implemented restrictive abortion ban.
Texas’ newly implemented restrictive abortion ban has drawn criticism and outrage from women’s rights proponents, but whether you support abortion access or not, research has demonstrated that abortion rates remain fairly steady across countries, regardless of abortion bans, and that countries in which abortion is legal and accessible actually have lower abortion rates.
These lower rates generally also correspond with across-the-board higher quality women’s health resources and sex education. These strategies are more effective at reducing the number of unintended pregnancies and abortions while improving women’s health and bodily autonomy as a whole.
Comprehensive sex education
Research from the University of Washington shows that students who receive comprehensive and medically accurate sex education are significantly less likely to experience unwanted pregnancy than peers who receive no sex education or abstinence-only education. According to a Planned Parenthood poll, 96 percent of parents support sex education taught to high schoolers. Despite this, only 24 states and the District of Columbia mandate sex education in high school curriculums, and only 18 require the information to be medically accurate. Unsurprisingly, the state with the highest teen pregnancy rate, Arkansas, also does not mandate sex education.
Affordable and available contraception
The Contraceptive CHOICE Project, launched in St. Louis, Missouri in 2007, is an example of the effects of free and accessible contraception. The program enrolled 9,000 women to receive free contraceptive counseling and the contraception of their choice. Among teenage participants, the annual abortion rate was 9.7 per 1,000 teens, far lower than the 2008 national rate of 41.5 abortions per 1,000 sexually active teens. In Colorado, a program that made contraception free to teens and low-income women successfully dropped the statewide abortion rate by 42 percent.
Regardless of one’s stance on the moral implications of abortion, data has demonstrated over and over again that banning abortions increases the number of deaths due to unsanctioned abortions and does nothing to reduce the number of abortions conducted. Abortion rates have been steadily decreasing in the US, primarily due to increased access to contraceptives. If we would like to continue this trend, improved sex education and increased access to healthcare and contraceptives are the best way to proceed.