Common Ground Victory: Abortion Rate Plummets under President Obama

December 4th, 2012

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New data released just before Thanksgiving by the Center for Disease Control shows that the rate of U.S. abortions in 2009, (the most recent year for which data is available) was at its lowest since Roe v. Wade first legalized the procedure in 1973. Between 2008 and 2009, the abortion rate dropped 5%—marking the largest percentage decrease in a decade. So while recent media attention around abortion has focused on gaffes and extreme comments by candidates, it seems that President Obama has quietly been making progress on a common ground goal Americans on both sides of the issue share: reducing the need for abortion.

While we don’t know what exactly caused this decrease in the abortion rate, we do know that President Obama has taken several important and under-appreciated steps aimed at reducing the need for abortion—a goal he has prioritized since his first days in office. As a presidential candidate in 2008, Obama changed the Democratic Party platform to include “[strong] support” for policies that “reduce the need for abortions.” On the anniversary of Roe v. Wade just after his inauguration, the President released a statement again emphasizing this common ground goal: “While this is a sensitive and often divisive issue, no matter what our views, we are united in our determination to prevent unintended pregnancies, reduce the need for abortion, and support women and families in the choices they make.” And in outreach to the Catholic community early in his first term, the President devoted a major speech to the issue, calling on Americans of different beliefs to “work together to reduce the number of women seeking abortions.”  In its early months, the Obama Administration also assembled a diverse coalition of faith leaders who made reducing the need for abortion a major focus as well as tasking Obama’s Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships with the same objective as one of its four major policy goals. The new CDC data shows these efforts may have been successful, since the first year of the Obama Presidency saw the lowest abortion rate recorded in U.S. history.

In the years since 2009, the President has continued to advocate for and implement policies intended to reduce the need for abortion. Federal funding for fiscal year 2010 included $7.8 billion for an initiative to reduce the need for abortion. And under the Affordable Care Act, the Obama Administration prioritized the two components of reducing the need for abortion—preventing unintended pregnancies and supporting pregnant women—by increasing access to both contraceptive and maternity care. Because of these more recent efforts, as more data becomes available we may find that the abortion rate has continued to plummet even further under President Obama’s leadership.

Today, Americans on both sides of the abortion debate, as well as those in the middle, should recognize this new CDC data as a sign of progress and laud President Obama’s dedication to reducing the need for abortion, a common ground goal both pro-life and pro-choice Americans support.