(CNN) — In the 46 years since abortion was legalized nationwide, the country has never seen abortion rates this low, but those decreases might have little to do with anti-abortion laws passed across the country in recent years, researchers say.
A report from the Guttmacher Institute, indicated the abortion rate in 2017 was 13.5 abortions per 1,000 women aged 15 to 44 — the lowest rate since 1973 when the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision legalized abortion.
The institute counted 862,000 abortions in the country in 2017, down from 926,000 tallied by the group in 2014 and from just over 1 million in 2011. According to the report, the number of abortions in the U.S. peaked at 1.6 million in 1990.
Guttmacher is the only research group to conduct an abortion provider census, releasing data every three years spending about two years analyzing and aggregating the information.
The newly released information found that between 2011 and 2017:
— Abortion rates increased in only five states and the District of Columbia.
— Abortion rates declined the most in the West by about 14%.
— Number of clinics providing abortion declined from 839 to 808.
Despite hundreds of new abortion restrictions across the country, those restrictions “were not the main driver of the decline in the US abortion rate,” Guttmacher said Wednesday.
“Rather, the decline in abortions appears to be related to declines in births and pregnancies overall.”
Guttmacher said 32 states enacted 394 restrictions between 2011 and 2017, and the vast majority of those measures took effect.
Yet, “nearly every state had a lower abortion rate regardless of whether it had restricted abortion access,” Guttmacher said. “Several states with new restrictions actually had abortion rate increases.”
In addition to the decline in abortions, the rate of live births dropped by 98,000 — suggesting a decrease in pregnancies overall.
“One possible contributing factor is contraceptive access and use,” Guttmacher said. “Since 2011, contraception has become more accessible, as most private health insurance plans are now required by the Affordable Care Act (ACA) to cover contraceptives without out-of-pocket costs.”
Guttmacher’s president, Dr. Herminia Palacio, told the Associated Press that “abortion restrictions, regardless of whether they lead to fewer abortions, ‘are coercive and cruel by design,’ with a disproportionate impact on low-income women.”
“If your priority is to reduce abortions, one of the best things you can do is make sure that women have access to high-quality, affordable and effective methods of birth control,” Alina Salganicoff, director of women’s health policy for the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation told the AP.
This article includes additional reporting from the Associated Press.