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IS DECREASE IN ABORTIONS DUE TO CUT IN PROVIDERS?

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Abortions among American women dropped to the lowest level in 13 years in 1992, which could be a sign that abortions are harder to get, a study shows.

"Abortion services have clearly become less available, given the smaller and smaller number of trained and practicing providers, the continuing concentration of services in large urban areas, and provision of services becoming increasingly fraught with hassles and harassment," Stanley Henshaw, one of the study's authors, said in a statement.The report from the nonprofit Alan Guttmacher Institute said 1.529 million women had abortions in 1992, 80,000 fewer than in 1990. The 1992 level, based on a 1993 survey of abortion providers, is the lowest since 1979, when just under 1.5 million abortions were performed in the United States.

States with large rural populations - Arkansas, Delaware, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Tennessee, Utah and Wyoming -lost between 20 percent and 40 percent of their abortion providers between 1988 and 1992, the study said.

North Dakota lost two of its three abortion providers, joining South Dakota as a state with only one place where women can get abortions.

New York state had the highest abortion rate, with 46.2 abortions per 1,000 women aged 15-44, followed by Hawaii, Nevada and California.

Another factor in the decrease in abortions could be the gradual aging of large segments of the U.S. female population, with resulting lower fertility and therefore fewer abortions, Henshaw said.

An improvement in the use of contraceptives could also be pushing the abortion rate down, according to the study by the New York-based nonprofit corporation for reproductive health research and analysis.

Henshaw said it is common for abortion rates to stabilize and then slightly decline following the legalization of abortion.

The anti-abortion group National Right to Life Committee, noted the study's findings but said the decrease in abortions could be reversed if Congress approves President Clinton's health care plan, which would provide funding for abortions.

"The Clinton health care bill would require federal funding of abortion without restriction, and mandates a greatly expanded network of abortion clinics," said the group's legislative director Douglas Johnson.

"Clearly, based on this study and a mountain of other data, the inevitable result would be a sharp increase in the number of abortions performed," Johnson said.