On Friday, the Minnesota Department of Health released its annual report on abortions performed in Minnesota, which includes data on how many abortions were performed in the state in 2021, as well as information about the people who get them, plus, when, how and why they get them.
This year, the report’s release comes amid increased fervor surrounding the abortion debate, just a week after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned, in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the constitutional right to an abortion protected under 1973’s Roe v. Wade.
Following the Dobbs ruling, most abortions were outlawed immediately in some states. Others are expected to follow, including some of Minnesota’s closest neighbors. This could ultimately Minnesota an island where abortion is accessible in the Upper Midwest.
While the report shows many of the 2021 abortion stats are continuations of trends seen in recent years, including the number of abortions and the demographics of the people getting them, abortion rights activists expect to see changes in some of those data points in as a result of Dobbs in the future.
Abortion legal in Minnesota
Minnesota is likely to remain a state where abortion is legal — at least for now.
In 1995, the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled that the state Constitution protects the right to an abortion in Doe v. Gomez, which further granted low-income women the right to public assistance in obtaining abortions. To remove that constitutional protection would take the Minnesota Supreme Court overruling its prior ruling, or a Constitutional amendment.
The Legislature is in charge of regulating abortions, which in Minnesota can generally be obtained up to the point of fetal viability, usually considered to be 24 weeks, unless the life of the woman is at risk or in cases where the fetus has anomalies incompatible with life. Minnesota statutes also require an informed consent script is provided to those seeking abortions, as well as a 24-hour waiting period. In cases where minors seek abortions, both parents are required to be notified. In Minnesota, abortions must be performed by physicians. (Note: A state district court judge declared the informed consent, 24-hour waiting period, parental notification and physician-only requirements violated Minnesota’s Constitution on July 11, 2022.)
Restrictions on abortion could potentially be up for debate, depending on the outcome of the November election, when Gov. Tim Walz, who says and all 201 legislators are up for re-election.
While Walz says abortion will remain accessible under his leadership, his challenger, GOP-endorsed Scott Jensen, has previously advocated for a ban on abortion with potential exceptions, as in the case where the woman’s life is at stake. After Roe was overturned, Jensen acknowledged the Minnesota court ruling protecting abortion in a statement.
Number of abortions consistent with recent years — but could go up
Friday’s report shows the number of abortions performed in Minnesota (10,136 in 2021), as well as the rate of abortions, fairly consistent with other recent years. In the past decade, the state has averaged 10,105 abortions per year, down from an average of nearly 17,700 per year in the 1980s.
Data also show a long-term decline in the rate of abortions in Minnesota over time — a rate that accounts for population increase — from 17.2 abortions per 1,000 female residents ages 15 to 44 to 8.5 last year. That 8.5 percent is up slightly from the 2020 rate of 7.6 per female residents ages 15 to 44.
The share of abortions performed in Minnesota obtained by the state’s residents has remained relatively consistent over time, between about 89 and 93 percent since the late 1980s.
In 2021, 9,127 of the 10,136 abortion patients in Minnesota were Minnesota residents. The next most common state of residence was Wisconsin (634 patients), followed by South Dakota (158), North Dakota (84), Iowa (56), Michigan (20). Fifty-seven patients were from states not bordering Minnesota.
That could change. Abortion providers in Minnesota are expecting an uptick in the number of out-of-staters seeking abortions in the wake of Dobbs. North Dakota and South Dakota have so-called trigger laws banning abortion in the wake of Roe. Wisconsin has a 19th century abortion ban that the state’s attorney general is suing to block. The Guttmacher Institute, a pro-choice research institute, predicts Wisconsin and Iowa will restrict abortion soon.
Planned Parenthood spokesperson Emily Bisek told NPR last week that Planned Parenthood North Central States, the largest abortion provider in Minnesota, is expecting a 10 percent to 25 percent increase in abortion in Minnesota as a result of other states restricting abortion following Dobbs.
“More and more states are anticipated to ban abortion, so the landscape will continue to rapidly shift across the country and that will impact the care that states like Minnesota that have protection will be able to provide,” she told MinnPost on Friday.
It’s not clear what future demand for abortion in Minnesota will look like yet — or how much of that demand will come from neighboring states, or even non-neighboring states where there may soon be less or no access to abortion.
The state’s annual abortion report also sheds some light on who is getting abortions in Minnesota, showing most patients are adults, already have children, and that Black, Hispanic, Asian and Indigenous Minnesotans are disproportionately represented.
People in their 20s and 30s were most commonly abortion patients in Minnesota in 2021.
Sixty percent of those who had abortions in 2021 had one or more previous live births and 41 percent had had one or more previous abortions.
As in previous years, Black, Hispanic, Asian and American Indian women, as well as people who identified their ethnicity as “other” were disproportionately abortion patients.
When it came to reasons for getting an abortion, the most cited was not wanting children at the time, followed by economic reasons, emotional health and physical health.
Among Minnesota residents, half received public assistance to pay for the procedure, while 22 percent had private coverage and 27 percent self-paid.
The data also give a picture of abortion procedures in Minnesota, indicating most take place within the first 8 weeks of pregnancy, and are induced via medication.
The vast majority of abortions — 69 percent — took place at estimated gestational ages under nine weeks. Eighty-eight percent of abortions in 2021 took place within the first trimester.
Thirty-nine percent of abortions performed in Minnesota were performed via surgical procedure, while 61 percent were induced via medication.
Correction: This article previously misstated the law surrounding abortions after fetal viability in Minnesota. This article clarifies that prohibitions on abortion after fetal viability were struck down, though they are generally followed in practice.