The New York Times recently published an article by opinion columnist David Leonhardt about the significant short-term decline in Delaware’s abortion rate. Indeed, new data from the Guttmacher Institute indicate that between 2014 and 2017, the rate of abortions performed in Delaware fell by 37 percent, the largest percentage decline of any U.S. state. Similarly, a Newsweek article from this past weekend, written by former Delaware governor Jack Markell, credits contraception for the state’s abortion-rate decline.
In his piece, Leonhardt credited a government-funded contraception program for this decrease. Beginning in 2014, Delaware partnered with the company Upstream to offer a range of free contraceptive services to women who visit health-care providers, and data show that the percentage of Delaware’s family planning patients using a long-acting, reversible contraceptive has increased.
Unfortunately, Leonhardt’s analysis is superficial. Specifically, he ignores three other key factors that also have played a significant role in Delaware’s abortion-rate decline. First, as in many states, Delaware’s declining abortion rate is part of a larger, long-term trend. Guttmacher statistics show that the Delaware abortion rate has been falling sharply since 2007, well before the state began funding the new contraceptive program. In fact, in percentage terms, Delaware’s abortion rate actually fell at a faster clip in the three years before the state partnered with Upstream than in the three years after.
Second, Delaware is a geographically small state, where nearly every resident lives in close proximity to the border of an adjacent state. As a result, Delaware’s large in-state abortion decline could partly be due to the fact that more residents obtain abortions in nearby states such as Maryland, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey. Interestingly, Guttmacher’s statistics on resident abortion rates, which specifically include Delaware residents who obtain abortions in other states, show a considerably more-modest decline in Delaware’s abortion rate.
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SOURCE: Christian Post, Michael J. New