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In his Aug. 16, 2008, appearance with megachurch pastor Rick Warren, Sen. Barack Obama asserted that "abortions have not gone down'' in the United States during the presidency of George W. Bush, a strong abortion opponent.
"I believe in Roe vs. Wade , and I come to that conclusion not because I'm proabortion, but because, ultimately, I don't think women make these decisions casually. I think they — they wrestle with these things in profound ways, in consultation with their pastors or their spouses or their doctors or their family members," Obama said. "And so, for me, the goal right now should be — and this is where I think we can find common ground. And by the way, I've now inserted this into the Democratic Party platform, is how do we reduce the number of abortions? The fact is that although we have had a president who is opposed to abortion over the last eight years, abortions have not gone down and that is something we have to address."
But Obama's statement is directly contradicted by statistics that show legal abortions have fallen since the start of the 21st century.
The New York-based Guttmacher Institute reported in January 2008 that in 2005 the country's abortion rate fell to 19.4 abortions per 1,000 women aged 15 to 44, continuing a trend that started after the abortion rate peaked in 1981 at 29.3. The institute, a think tank on reproductive health issues, reported that the number of abortions also fell, to 1.2-million in 2005, which it said was 25 percent below the record high of 1.6-million abortions in 1990.
And the federal Centers for Disease Control reported in its latest Abortion Surveillance Report that in 2004 there were 839,226 legal abortions, down 1.1 percent from 2003. The abortion ratio of 16 per 1,000 women has been the same since 2000, it added.
Rebecca Wind, spokesman of the Guttmacher Institute, said the difference in the two sets of numbers reflects differences in data collection. She said the CDC relies on state health departments, and not all states require abortion statistics reporting. Guttmacher does its own survey of all legal abortion providers and reports a fairly high response rate.
In any case, she added, "There's no way to spin this one. The abortion rate is at its lowest rate since 1974.''
Obama made his comments to Warren in the context of cutting the number of abortions. He said he wanted to find "ways that we can work together to reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies, so that we actually are reducing the sense that women are seeking out abortions.''
In that context, his comment about abortions made sense. Guttmacher data showed that 49 percent of pregnancies were unintended in 2001, unchanged from 1994.
Obama's campaign did not respond to an e-mail seeking an explanation for the senator's statement.
But his comment about the abortion rate was wrong, so we rule this claim False.
Interview with Rebecca Wind, spokeswoman, Guttmacher Institute
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