Pro-Life Convictions, Lower Demand for Abortions

Randall Wenger

Good news for the unborn: Abortions have been in steady decline. The factors underlying this decline and the contemporaneous reduction in the number of abortion clinics are multifaceted but encouraging to those who hope to see human life respected.

Since 2010, efforts in numerous states have resulted in a record increase in laws that have a positive impact on life. Everyone agrees that they have had an effect on the abortion rate, but a state-by-state analysis reveals a steady decline in abortions and abortion clinics in both conservative states with new abortion restrictions and liberal states without any restrictions.

In 1990, there were 1.6 million abortions, but that number fell steadily to 1.1 million in 2011. Likewise, the abortion rate fell from 29 per thousand in 1980 to 17 per thousand in 2011. Abortions dropped another 12 percent since 2010 (based on 2013 and 2014 data, depending on the state), with some of the biggest declines in states with few restrictions like Hawaii, New Mexico, and Nevada.[1]

Laws alone explain only part of the story. Increased pro-life sentiment accounts for the significant reductions even in liberal states. As our increasingly pro-life youth reach childbearing age, their attitude on the rights of the unborn as well as their ideal family size have affected both their views on whether abortion should be legal and their individual responses to unplanned pregnancies.

In 1991, 36 percent of 18-year-olds to 29-year-olds believed that abortion should be legal in all circumstances. That number dropped to 24 percent by 2009.[2] Likewise, a 2013 survey revealed that 49 percent of Americans believe abortion is morally wrong in contrast to 15 percent who believe it is morally acceptable.[3]

America’s youth have grown up seeing ultrasound photos and videos that show themselves yawning, blinking, and sucking their thumbs inside their mothers’ wombs. This may help explain why our youth who find themselves with an unexpected pregnancy are more likely to want to keep the baby. Additionally, women ages 18 to 29 are much more likely than previous generations to view three to four children as an ideal family size,[4] thus, unexpected pregnancies may be viewed more as an opportunity than as a constraint. With the youngest women being more pro-life, we can expect that the abortion rate will continue to decline as that generation replaces its elders.

Some states have sought to protect maternal health for those who seek abortion by passing laws that require abortion providers to meet the same health regulations that apply to other providers of outpatient surgeries. Abortion providers that chose not to meet these basic standards closed. The threat of closure resulted in lawsuits in some states. In June 2016, a decision from the U.S. Supreme Court struck down such a law in Texas.

A key issue in these cases is whether these safety standards will undermine access to abortion due to the closure of clinics. While these laws certainly had some effect on clinics, closures have been occurring steadily for decades, with a record 2,908 abortion providers in the 1980s having shrunk to 1,720 today.[5]

This industry has behaved like others: An industry reaches capacity, large providers grow, and smaller providers get squeezed out. Not only has demand for abortions decreased, but clinics have far fewer clients for other services. Partly because of the Affordable Care Act, women who formerly received reproductive health care services at abortion providers now go to medical providers within their insurance networks. This problem for abortion clinics was compounded by reallocation of governmental funding streams on which many clinics had come to rely.

Moreover, Planned Parenthood, which receives significant government subsidies, has been steadily eating market share, building larger urban clinics, and driving competitors out of business. The effect of this increased capacity on competition is the same as the effect of a Lowe’s or Home Depot when it moves into an area and the local hardware store closes or the so-called Walmartization of America, where smaller, locally run stores are unable to compete with the national box-store giant. The massive national leader in the abortion business is creating conditions that make it difficult if not impossible for other smaller providers to survive.[6]

For those who are concerned about human rights for the unborn, this is good news. Abortion clinics are shutting down, and an increasingly pro-life demographic is likely to lead to additional, sensible pro-life reforms and reduced demand for abortion.

Randall Wenger is Chief Counsel of the Independence Law Center.

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  1. David Crary, “Abortions Declining Greatly Across Most of US: Changes in Laws Do Not Appear to Affect Trend,” Associated Press, June 8, 2015, (accessed June 15, 2016).
  2. Lydia Saad, “Generational Differences on Abortion Narrow,” Gallup, March 12, 2010, (accessed June 16, 2016).
  3. Pew Research Center, Abortion Viewed in Moral Terms: Fewer See Stem Cell Research and IVF as Moral Issues at 2 (August 15, 2013).
  4. Clyde Wilcox and Patrick Carr, “The Puzzling Case of the Abortion Attitudes of the Millennial Generation,” in Barbara Norrander and Clyde Wilcox, eds., Understanding Public Opinion, 3rd ed. (Washington: CQ Press, 2009), pp. 128–129, (accessed June 16, 2016)
  5. Brief for CitizenLink et al, p. 7, at
  6. Ibid, p. 15.

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