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Abortions in Minnesota drop to lowest number in 37 years

The number of abortions among Minnesota women aged 19 and younger has fallen from 1,948 in 2007 to 1,229 last year.

The number of women getting abortions in Minnesota has declined for the sixth straight year and is now at its lowest point in almost four decades, according to a report released Monday by the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH).

In 2012, 10,701 abortions were performed in Minnesota, a 3 percent drop from the year before and the fewest number since 1975, when 10,565 women underwent abortions.

The abortion rate among Minnesota women of childbearing age is, however, actually lower than it was 37 years ago. About 9.3 abortions per 1,000 women aged 15 to 44 occurred in the state in 2012 compared to 10.3 per 1,000 in 1975.

The peak for abortions in Minnesota was in 1980, when 19,028 abortions were performed at a rate of 17.2 per 1,000 women of childbearing age.

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The number of abortions among Minnesota women aged 19 and younger has fallen particularly significantly in recent years — down from 1,948 in 2007 to 1,229 last year.

Reasons unclear

The MDH report, whose publication is required each year by state law, did not provide an explanation for the continued decline in abortions. People on both sides of the abortion debate are calling the report great news, however.

Scott Fischbach, executive director of Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life (MCCL), stated in a press release that the “downward trajectory reflects a profound shift occurring across the country: Americans are turning away from abortion as a solution to unexpected pregnancy.”

Planned Parenthood officials, on the other hand, believe that the steady reduction in abortions in Minnesota is most likely the result of fewer unintended pregnancies.

“We believe the decline persists because of increased access to birth control and information — both of which help prevent unintended pregnancies and, therefore, the need for abortion,” stated Jennifer Aulwes, media relations director at Planned Parenthood Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, in an e-mail to MinnPost.

Indeed, birth rates have also been declining in Minnesota in recent years.

That’s particularly true of births to teens. The number of teen mothers in Minnesota fell 14 percent between 2010 and 2011 alone, according to Teenwise Minnesota, a group that advocates in the state for adolescent sexual health and teen pregnancy prevention.

Judith Kahn, executive director of Teenwise Minnesota, believes greater access to sexual health services, including contraception, and educational efforts that help young people envision for themselves a better future are responsible for much of the drop in teen pregnancies.

“When young people have good information about their health, they are more likely to make a decision that will help them achieve their dreams,” Kahn said in a phone interview Monday.

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Birth-control access is key

In recent years, access to birth control for women of all ages has become politicized, and some religious groups have fought to overturn a rule under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) that requires most employers to provide free insurance coverage of contraceptives for women. Last week, the Obama administration announced that the rule would stay in place when the ACA becomes fully implemented in January 2014.

“The [MDH] data is evidence that we need to continue to invest in women’s preventive health care and access to birth control,” stressed Aulwes. “Of the 9,758 abortions that occurred among [Minnesota] residents, more than 5,600 of those women reported having never used contraception — or having used it in the past but not now. By increasing women’s access to birth control, we have a huge opportunity to further decrease the number of abortions in Minnesota.”

“We’re very optimistic that the Affordable Care Act will go a long way towards increasing access and helping prevent unintended pregnancies,” she added.

Study's details

Here are additional statistics from the MDH report that provide some insight into who is undergoing abortions in Minnesota — and why:

  • Thirty-nine of the abortions performed in Minnesota in 2012 involved teenagers under the age of 15. Another 1,190 involved teens aged 15 to 19. The vast majority of the women receiving abortions, however, were between the ages of 20 to 39. Some 409 women were aged 40 or older.
  • Minnesota residents had 9,758 of the abortions. Most of the other women who sought abortions in the state were residents of Wisconsin (743), while some were residents of Iowa, Michigan, North and South Dakota, and farther-flung states. One woman was Canadian; two came from unspecified countries.
  • Although most of the women who had an abortion were not married, a significant number (1,521) were. In addition, a clear majority of the women (6,094) had previously given birth (including 28 women who had delivered nine or more babies each).
  • Most of the women (6,115) were white and non-Hispanic (9,372). Black women had 2,504 of the abortions; Native American women had 224.
  • Sixty-nine women reported their pregnancies were the result of rape, and 18 reported they were the result of incest.
  • 564 women said a continuation of the pregnancy would put their physical health was at risk. Fetal anomalies were cited by 171 women as the reason for having the abortion.  2,924 said their decision was driven by economic necessity.
  • Most of the abortions (6,751) occurred before the ninth week of pregnancy. But 71 occurred during weeks 21-24, and three occurred during weeks 25-30. (Pregnancies after week 20 would be banned under controversial legislation passed in June by the U.S. House of Representatives.)
  • Almost half of the women (4,598) paid for the procedure themselves. Another 3,637 were on public assistance and 2,465 of the women were privately insured.

The full report is available on the MDH website.