Elective abortions in Minnesota reached a record low in 2015 — dipping back below 10,000 after a slight uptick in 2014 — as efforts to reduce unplanned pregnancies among teens and young adults continued to see results.
The 9,861 elective abortions in Minnesota last year were the lowest annual number in 35 years of reporting by the Minnesota Department of Health, according to a state report released Friday. The highest reported total was 19,028 in 1980.
Beyond the total, though, the state's annual abortion report showed intriguing demographic trends in terms of who is receiving abortions and who is performing them.
The number of teen abortions has been halved in six years — declining from 1,907 in 2008 to 872 last year — corresponding roughly with the introduction of grant-funded programs in Hennepin County to teach goal-setting for teens so they prevent unplanned pregnancies. The rates of teen pregnancies and births have reached historic lows in Minnesota as well in that time frame.
"The more teens have access to information and health care services, the more likely they are to use contraception when they do become sexually active," said Jen Aulwes, a spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, one of the Minnesota's largest providers of family planning and abortion services. "Research also shows they are more likely to delay the initiation of sexual intercourse" when receiving sex education that focuses on personal goal-setting.
However, abortions among women 30 and older have increased slightly — the 3,360 procedures in this age group last year was the highest annual total since 2008. This roughly corresponds to a recent bump in births among women 30 and older.
The rate of abortions that are publicly funded by programs such as Medical Assistance increased in Minnesota from 29 percent in 2008 to 43 percent last year — indicating that a growing share of abortions involve women living in poverty. Public assistance replaced self-pay as the most common financial source for abortions in 2014.
Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life released a statement Friday expressing concern over the 4,267 abortions funded by public assistance last year. But the St. Paul abortion opponents group commended the overall decline, which it attributed to 2006 legislation and grants that provided women considering abortions with financial resources and counseling to continue their pregnancies.
"Today's report is further evidence that women don't want abortions, and when they find help, they have hope," said Scott Fischbach, executive director of the organization.
Consolidation of abortion services has continued as well. Planned Parenthood performed 51 percent of the elective abortions in the state last year at its St. Paul and Rochester locations. Though four other clinics were listed, this is the first time in the state health department's reporting that any one organization provided more than half the abortions in the state.
Last year also showed a sharp decline in the proportion of women receiving elective abortions who said they were using contraception at the time they got pregnant — from 3,127 women who reported this in 2014 to 2,395 women last year.
The steepest drop was in women who aborted pregnancies that occurred despite the use of condoms or birth control pills.
Aulwes said this could be due to broader interest in long-acting forms of contraception such as intrauterine devices, or IUDs, among sexually active women.
"Unlike the birth control pill," she said, "the IUD is there. It's in place. Nothing can stop it from doing its job, whereas with the birth control pill, there is the potential for human and user error in all kinds of ways."