The Story: Nearly everywhere, in red states and blue, abortions are down since 2010, says the Associated Press.
The Background: The Associated Press obtained the most recent abortion numbers from the health departments of all 45 states that compile such data on a comprehensive basis. (States not compiling such data are California, Maryland, New Jersey, New Hampshire and Wyoming.) Although the U.S. population has increased by 9 million, the survey found a nationwide decrease in abortions of about 12 percent since 2010.
The biggest decrease in abortion, percentage-wise, was in Hawaii, where abortions fell from 3,064 in 2010 to 2,147 in 2014. In two states, Michigan and Louisiana, abortions actually increased by significant amounts, due largely to an influx of women from more neighboring states with more restrictive laws.
Since 2011, state have enacted a total of 267 abortion restrictions. Yet in five of the six states with the biggest declines — Hawaii (30 percent), New Mexico (24 percent), Nevada (22 percent), Rhode Island (22 percent), Connecticut (21 percent) — have passed no recent laws to restrict abortion clinics or providers.
Why It Matters: The number of abortions is decreasing across the nation—and no one knows why. Pro-lifers claim that it’s mostly due to the plethora of state-level restrictions. Pro-choicers will claim it is due to increased birth control and government-funded healthcare. Both sides are likely to be at least partially correct. The decrease is likely due to a broad range of causes, many of which we may not even be aware are influential.
For example, one factor that I think may be overlooked is the role of social media, specifically Facebook. Indeed, I believe one of the most powerful and persuasive pro-life tools used by people on both sides is a picture of a baby posted on Facebook
For most people, on just about any given day they can open their Facebook account and within 30 posts find a picture of a baby. No matter who you are, whether young or old, black or white, rural or urban, someone is likely posting a picture of a baby to your Facebook timeline.
It’s easy to overlook how radical a change this is in America. We used to see pictures of babies on our coworkers desk or when a proud grandparent would pull a photo out of a wallet. Today, we see pictures of babies on a daily—sometimes hourly—basis. We also see them through a range of developmental stages, from sonograms in the womb to birth to their first months with their family.
Such images have become as ubiquitous on Facebook as cats on YouTube. We not only see babies everywhere, we know their names, we watch them play, we see them change. Babies have not only become part of our online context, they have helped to create a more pro-life context.
Consider, an example of two Facebook posts I saw a couple of years ago. In one post was a mother holding a sleepy-eyed newborn. And in the post below was a link to a news story about the murder of infants by Kermit Gosnell.
You probably noticed a similar juxtaposition in your own Facebook feeds. Many millions of other people did too, which is why I believe that story about a late-term abortionist finally gained the public’s attention. Americans finally connected the dots between abortion and the children that were being slaughtered.
That’s why Mark Zuckerberg, no matter what his political views, has become one of the most important people in the prolife cause. He’s given us a tool that’s helping to form a pro-life context in America.