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DECEMBER 11, 1998   9:46 AM
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: Planned Parenthood
 
New Abortion Statistics Confirm Effectiveness of Prevention Programs
 
NEW YORK - December 11 -

Statement by Gloria Feldt, President
Planned Parenthood Federation of America

"Planned Parenthood is heartened by statistics released today by the Alan Guttmacher Institute (AGI) showing that the U.S. abortion rate is at its lowest point in 20 years. The decline in abortions through the 1990s has been caused not just by demographic factors, but by a very significant decrease in unintended pregnancy across all age groups.

This did not happen by itself. The drop in unintended pregnancy, and in teen pregnancy especially, is the fruit of years of work by groups like Planned Parenthood. Planned Parenthood health centers across the country have worked tirelessly to educate Americans, especially young people, about the need to make responsible choices. We provide confidential family planning information and care for young people -- a safe place for teens to go when they need help with a sexual health issue and feel they can't talk to anyone else.

Our approach is working. Between 1988 and 1995, there was a twenty percent increase in the percentage of teens who use contraception at first intercourse. More than three-quarters of teens are now using contraception the first time they have sex. And during the same time period, the level of teen sexual activity also began to decline. Clearly, the abstinence and safer sex messages are not in conflict – they combine into a message of responsible choices that is working for teens.

The prospect of providing abortions earlier in pregnancy due to increased availability of medical abortion is another piece of good news contained in the AGI study. Planned Parenthood centers participated in the large-scale trials of mifepristone, and we are now making methotrexate available to American women. The AGI data show that when mifepristone finally reaches the American market, it will be widely accepted by health providers. Our own experience shows that many women will choose it. We are making important progress in helping women who need abortions have them earlier.

Medical abortion, however, will not immediately answer the need for new abortion providers. The AGI study found that very few physicians have begun offering medical abortion unless they were already also providing surgical abortion.

AGI found a fourteen percent decrease in the number of abortion providers overall. This underlines the importance of Planned Parenthood centers and other abortion providers who stand firm in a commitment to serve the health of poor women and rural women who could not otherwise find a safe abortion. Planned Parenthood remains extremely concerned about the continued decline in access to abortion.

AGI for the first time also collected data on the number of intact dilation and extraction (D&X) abortion procedures, as defined by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG). However, the collection of this data has little relevance for the debate over the attempt to ban so-called "partial-birth" abortion. The bill that has been twice vetoed by President Clinton, like the 28 bills passed at the state level, contains language so broad and vague that it would outlaw not just D&X, but most common abortion methods even early in a pregnancy. That is why, in recent weeks, federal courts in New Jersey, Arkansas, Kentucky and Florida have joined numerous other courts in declaring bans on so-called "partial-birth" abortion to be unconstitutional.

The American people do not want any more divisive abortion battles. Most Americans want programs that help people get the information and services they need to make responsible choices, and want politicians to stop trying to intrude in those decisions. That is why Planned Parenthood is moving forward with our Responsible Choices Action Agenda, to increase support for family planning programs that prevent the need for abortion without undermining access to it.

Despite the progress shown in the AGI study, America's rates of unintended pregnancy and abortion are still far higher than those in many European nations. Planned Parenthood will redouble its efforts to make reducing unintended pregnancy a national priority. Helping Americans plan their families ensures that more children are born to parents ready to nurture and love them. The positive impact on children and families carries over into our society as a whole. If we can further reduce our nation's rate of unintended pregnancy, we will see significant progress on the many related social problems facing our nation. This latest report from AGI confirms that we are moving in the right direction."

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