NRL News

Behind the Guttmacher Abortion Numbers

by | Mar 30, 2011

By Dave Andrusko

Editor’s note. The following first appeared at Today’s News & Views in January. We run it here as a companion to the excellent analysis of CDC abortion data provided by Dr. Randall K. O’Bannon (“CDC Abortion Report Offers Valuable Demographic Data”).

If ever the devil is in the details, it’s in the latest Guttmacher report, “Abortion Incidence and Access to Services in the United States, 2008” which appears today in “Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health.” There are significant gaps in you may have read in the mainstream press in its account of the report from the Guttmacher Institute (which spun off from Planned Parenthood in 1968). You come to National Right to Life to give you “the story behind the story,” and that’s what we are doing.

In one sentence, the typical summary is, “Decline in Abortions Appears Stalled.” Evidence? A tiny uptick in the number of abortions reported (from 1,206,200 in 2005 to 1,212,350 in 2008 ) and an increase in the abortion rate (the number of abortions per thousand women of child-bearing age) rose from 19.4 in 2005 to 19.6 in 2008.

This is very misleading. As Dr. O’Bannon explains (,  the likely explanation is that Guttmacher discovered previously uncounted abortion “providers.” In general Guttmacher was more successful in ferreting out information from abortion providers in 2008 than it was in 2005. This more complete reporting could easily explain a one half of one percent increase in the “incidence” of abortion.

Beyond the many insights offered by Dr. O’Bannon, let me list four considerations to keep in mind when discussing what we are told has occurred.

In 1990 there were 1.61 million abortions. We’ve experienced a drop of 25%! That is a lot of people alive today who wouldn’t otherwise be.

In the very beginning the Guttmacher report declares that “Access to abortion services is a critical issue, particularly since the number of abortion providers has been falling for the last three decades.” Combine that with the insistence that “barriers to abortion services” be removed and it is impossible to miss the conclusion that until every pregnancy is “planned,” there will never, ever be enough abortions.

Chemically-induced abortions (typically RU-486) are on the upswing–from 161,000 to 199,000, a 24% increase. Clinics that performed real medicine along with abortions (“nonspecialized clinics”) had “the highest proportion of such abortions (30%).” From the anti-life perspective, these clinics have real potential for growth for another reason. According to the report, “27% of nonspecialized clinics offered only early medication [chemically induced] abortion services.” Perhaps other clinics could be talked into performing “only” RU-486 abortions.

There is the usual lament that the number of abortion providers–while they didn’t decrease for the first time since 1982–isn’t what it ought to be. This habitual complaint omits what you find between the lines elsewhere. That while the number of abortion clinics might decrease in a state, the absolute number of abortions goes up (or has the potential to go up) because a gigantic mega-abortion clinic replaces the smaller (and less profitable) clinics. Very much worth noting is that “The 378 specialized abortion clinics accounted for 21% of all abortion providers but performed 70% of all abortions in 2008. Most of these facilities reported 1,000 or more abortions during the year.”

In addition, the report, based on surveys conducted in 2009 and 2010, says nothing about “web-cam abortions,” which began after the surveys were conducted. The abortionist is not in the room with the woman and she aborts after he electronically opens a drawer from which she takes out the two drugs that make up the RU-486 abortion technique. This both increases the pool of women (typically from rural areas) and enhances the abortionist’s “effectiveness.” (He doesn’t have to drive or fly to meet the women.)

Be sure to read Dr. O’Bannon’s keen analysis in Part Two. As we look to the future we must remember that to a degree we have never seen before the abortion industry is positioning itself to seriously increase the number of dead babies.

The abortion industry is hyper-aggressive. We must be no less diligent on behalf of life.

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