While the percentage of abortions in the United States declined by 14 percent in the years 2011-2014, North Carolina’s rates increased by 3 percent, according to a study by the Guttmacher Institute.
The study, conducted every three years, aims to inform people of abortion policies to help decrease the number of unintended pregnancies. Recent data shows the abortion rate is at the lowest level nationally recorded since abortion became legal in 1973.
Rachel Jones, lead author of the study, said it did not look for causes of the decline, but available evidence shows there were two contributing factors — increased use of contraceptives and state restrictions on abortion.
“There are some indications that women and couples were doing a better job at using contraceptives; in particular, that there were more women using long-acting methods such as IUD (intrauterine devices),” Jones said.
But a declining abortion rate could also be an impact of state and federal restrictions on abortion clinics, which might lead to more women having unintended pregnancies, she said.
“Declines in abortion aren’t necessarily a good thing,” Jones said. “It just means that women are having babies that they did not want to have.”
Despite the nationwide decline, North Carolina is one of seven states that saw an increase in abortion, despite a decline in the number of abortion clinics.
Jones said the study did not have the time or resources to find out why there was an increase.
Justine Orlovsky-Schnitzler, UNC senior and campus leader for NARAL Pro-Choice North Carolina, said targeted regulation of abortion providers could be a factor in the decrease of abortion clinics in North Carolina.
“Clinics might need to have hallways that are a certain length because ambulatory centers have to be long enough for gurneys to go through,” said Orlovsky-Schnitzler. “Those kind of repair changes are so expensive that sometimes clinics have to close based on that.”
Barbara Holt, state president of North Carolina Right to Life, said the fact that reporting on abortion statistics in the state is voluntary might affect the data’s accuracy.
“I know that according to Guttmacher, it appears that abortion in North Carolina has not declined like it has nationwide,” Holt said. “But I think that it is just a factor of the poor reporting that was done by the abortion providers in North Carolina.”
She said efforts that work toward anti-abortion policies and education contribute to declining abortion rates.
The state has worked to eliminate tax dollars to pay for abortions, and Holt said she believes the N.C. General Assembly will take further state-related action.
Orlovsky-Schnitzler said more restrictive laws would prevent people from exercising their rights given under Roe v. Wade.
“There is no sense in having abortion legal if we can’t access it readily,” she said.