The abortion rate in the United States dropped to its lowest point since the Supreme Court legalized the procedure in all 50 states, according to a study suggesting that new, long-acting contraceptive methods are having a significant impact in reducing unwanted pregnancies. There were fewer than 17 abortions for every 1,000 women in 2011, the latest year for which figures were available, according a paper published Monday from the Guttmacher Institute, a pro-abortion-rights think tank. That is down 13 percent from 2008 and a little higher than the rate in 1973, when the Supreme Court handed down its landmark Roe v. Wade decision.

Andrew Sullivan:

Some pro-lifers are crediting the wave of restrictive legislation passed since 2011, but the data only go up to 2011! And besides, the drop has been going on for more than twenty years now, in a huge success for the pro-life movement, and for the pro-choice movement. Which makes this moment such a telling one. The rate is now roughly where it was in 1973, when Roe went into effect. So without getting rid of the legal regime for abortion, rates are now almost where they were before it came into effect. It seems to me that this somewhat brutally undermines the case for a policy of coercion and criminality going forward. If we can halve the rate of abortion under Roe, and effectively make its impact neutral on abortion rates, without criminalizing abortion, don’t we have a win-win?

So... the abortion rate is now where it was before abortion was legalized. And if we continue to back contraception—by, say, including contraception coverage in the health insurance policies that people are obligated to purchase under Obamacare—we could conceivably drive the abortion rate down further. To pre-Roe levels. Unfortunately American conservatives and anti-abortion crusaders are waging a war on contraception and access to contraception. Because what they oppose is sex. And female sexuality. It's women having sex in the absence of potentially dire or life-altering/life-threatening consequences that drives them mad. That's why they oppose abortion and the one thing that has been proven to bring down the abortion rate: greater access to contraception.

And the fact that we're talking about driving abortion rates down to pre-Roe levels is evidence of something that we should be talking about more: legal or illegal, women will still get abortions. So the debate isn't, "Shall we have abortions in this country or not?", but rather, "What kind of abortions are we going to have? Safe and legal? Or Unsafe and illegal?"

That anti-choicers will choose "unsafe and illegal" gives away the game: It's not about "ending abortion," it's about punishing a woman for the crime of having sex when she wasn't trying to make a baby.