Commentary

Abortion Clinic Closures – Not Contraceptive Programs – Responsible for Delaware’s Abortion Decline

Michael New Tessa Longbons
By Michael New and Tessa Longbons | January 17, 2019 | 9:34 AM EST

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Last month, The New York Times published an article about Delaware’s efforts to make contraception more available to its residents. Starting in 2014, Delaware partnered with the company Upstream to offer a range of free contraceptive services to women who visit health care providers.  According to the article, long-acting reversible contraceptives, like IUDs and implants, have been popular among both patients and doctors. Indeed, data presented in the article indicates that the percentage of Delaware family planning patients who are using a long-acting reversible contraceptive has increased since 2014.  The Times article is supportive of the program and even states that conservative critics should appreciate the fact that Delaware’s abortion rate dropped a year after Upstream arrived, and that the health department expects it to fall again.

However, a closer look at Delaware abortion trends raises questions about the role of this program in reducing the incidence of abortion in Delaware. Delaware’s resident abortion rate has been falling since 2009. Furthermore, recent declines in Delaware’s abortion rate have been caused by the closing of abortion facilities. For instance, in 2011, Delaware’s resident abortion rate fell by 12 percent after two facilities associated with notorious late-term abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell shut down.  Similarly, the abortion rate fell by 21 percent in 2013 after reports of safety violations, buttressed by facility employees themselves, caused a Wilmington Planned Parenthood to close. Finally, the state abortion rate fell by another 20 percent in 2016 partly because an abortion facility operated by the infamous Stephen Brigham stopped performing surgical abortions after failing to adhere to accreditation guidelines.  Of course, none of this appears in The New York Times article.

Overall, the Times coverage of this contraceptive program is unsurprising.  The mainstream media always downplay the effectiveness of pro-life laws and promote contraceptive programs as an effective strategy for lowering the abortion rate.  In reality, however, there is a substantial body of academic research which finds that various types of pro-life laws are effective.  Furthermore, many studies show that many programs intended to increase contraceptive use are ineffective at best and counterproductive at worst.  It is unfortunate that The New York Times continues to cheerlead for contraception instead of providing thoughtful and balanced reporting on the many factors that contribute to the nationwide trends toward fewer abortions.

Michael J. New is a visiting assistant professor at the Busch School of Business at The Catholic University of America and an associate scholar at the Charlotte Lozier Institute.  Follow him on Twitter @Michael_J_New.  Tessa Longbons is a research associate at the Charlotte Lozier Institute.

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