The Washington Post writes,
Despite the steady drop in abortions across the United States in the three decades since the Supreme Court legalized the procedure in 1973 in the case of Roe v. Wade, a new generation of activists is taking up the cause with conviction and sophistication.
Why "despite"? Whether you agree with anti-abortion activists or not, they generally take the view that abortion is a grievous wrong. A steady drop in abortions doesn't make the remaining abortions any less wrong.
You'd think that a new generation of activists would still be energized to "tak[e] up the cause with conviction and sophistication" even if they think there are only several hundred thousands fetal lives to be saved each year rather than over a million. Perhaps the steady drop might even energize them into thinking that women's minds can be changed about the procedure; but in any case, I don't see why it would make them less interested in changing still more minds (and changing the law). The "despite" strikes me as a signal that the author and the editor are for some reason missing this pretty important fact about the motivations of the very people they're writing about.
(If Roe had actually decreased the total number of abortions per year, then it might be surprising that people would want to try to overturn it, though even then people might still actively urge women not to get abortions. But the total number of legal abortions plus illegal abortions increased following Roe, as one might expect.)
Thanks to OpinionJournal's Best of the Web, which has more.
UPDATE: An exchange with commenter Rich B. led me to look at some more data, which suggest the possibility that the aggregate legal and illegal abortion rate today is roughly the same as it was just before Roe; see here. I'm not positive that this is so, especially since the Alan Guttmacher Institute numbers are quite a bit higher from the CDC numbers, and since the Guttmacher Institute itself -- a defender of abortion rights -- reports that the current abortion rate is the lowest since 1974, not since 1972. Likewise, this file from Guttmacher reports a higher rate in 2005 than in 1973, without any qualifiers indicating that it's reporting only illegal abortions.
Nonetheless, even if the abortion rate is the same now as right before Roe, the shape of the curve is pretty clear: A huge spike in overall legal plus illegal abortions in the 1970s, followed by a slow but fairly steady and substantial decline since about 1980 (which is what I take the Post is somewhat confusingly describing as "the steady drop in abortions across the United States in the three decades since the Supreme Court legalized the procedure in 1973"). The spike is consistent with the view that legalization -- both before Roe in some states, and after Roe in all states -- increased the number of abortions; the decline seems most plausibly explained by changing social or economic conditions, quite possibly including increased public anti-abortion advocacy. It's of course possible that Roe was completely irrelevant, and that the spike was entirely due to other causes; it just doesn't seem very likely to me, and it certainly doesn't seem like the only plausible or even the most plausible explanation from the perspective of those who condemn abortion.
Thus, to return to the point I mentioned, even if the total abortion rate is roughly what it was right before Roe, it makes perfect sense that "a new generation of activists is taking up the cause with conviction and sophistication."