40 Years of Roe v Wade

Wednesday marks the 40th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark decision in Roe v Wade regarding the legality of abortions.  The Economist’s Daily Chart notes this anniversary by highlighting the trends in abortions and abortion-related deaths in the United States since 1965.  The graph to the right illustrates an oft-overlooked statistic: although Roe v Wade is the national milestone for abortion rights, abortion laws had already been liberalized in fifteen states three years earlier.  In fact, abortion-related deaths saw an extreme decline between 1970 and the 1973 Supreme Court ruling, from roughly 140 deaths in 1970 to approximately 40 in 1973.  In a similar trend, abortions per 1,000 women aged 15-44 began to steeply increase in 1969 and continued at a similar increase throughout the 1970s.

Since 1980, abortions have been on a steady decline, from almost 240 per 1,000 women to less than 20 in 2008. The Economist also points out that many states have been attempting to curb abortion rates in their states, introducing 135 provisions and regulations in the past two years.  In addition, sixteen states retain laws which would ban abortions if Roe v Wade were ever overturned.

The Economist's article primarily used data from the US Census Bureau's Statistical Abstract, found here.

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