The number of abortions in Minnesota dropped 7 percent last year, falling below 10,000 for the first time since at least 1975, the state Health Department reported Tuesday.
The annual total has fallen in 11 of the past 12 years and now stands 33 percent lower than in 2001. Minnesota clinics and hospitals performed 9,903 elective abortions last year, with 9,030 involving Minnesota women.
Minnesota’s annual legislative report on the trend came a day after a U.S. Supreme Court decision allowing certain businesses to refrain from covering birth control for employees if they have religious objections. The ruling left some abortion advocates predicting that the reduction in abortions could be short-lived.
“When women have access to birth control, they can avoid unintended pregnancies,” said Sarah Stoesz, president and chief executive officer of Planned Parenthood Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota. “If we want to continue to see the number of abortions … decline, we should be making birth control more accessible, not less.”
Planned Parenthood remained the top provider of abortion services in Minnesota, performing 4,370 of the procedures last year.
Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life, a group that opposes abortion, credited anti-abortion campaigns and legislation. Had Minnesota enacted additional anti-abortion legislation this year, “even more women, teens and unborn babies would have been saved from the tragedy of abortion,” the group said in a statement.
Roughly one-third of women who underwent abortions in 2013 reported that they were using some method of birth control when they got pregnant — though the listed techniques ranged from condoms to intrauterine devices to simply timing fertility cycles.
The rate of decline statewide has been more dramatic in younger age groups; the 1,047 abortions among females 19 and younger last year represented a 58 percent decline from 2001.
That trend presents something of a paradox, given data from the state’s Minnesota Student Survey, which shows little change in sexual activity levels or condom usage among the state’s high school students. Four of five sexually active high school juniors reported last year that they used some acceptable form of birth control.
The decline in teen abortions might reflect the fact that more young women are taking birth control pills or using other effective alternatives to condoms, said Judith Kahn, executive director of Teenwise Minnesota.
Kahn said she doubts this week’s high court ruling would have much of an effect on teens, since many don’t want to use their parents’ health insurance for contraception and use teen clinics instead.
While the overall decline in abortions has been steady, the underlying reasons have changed. More than 3,500 women cited economic concerns for having abortions in 2009, amid the last economic recession, but only 2,725 expressed that concern last year. Most women in 2013 simply indicated they didn’t want children at this time; smaller numbers cited physical or emotional health risks or said the pregnancies were due to rape or incest.
Public funding accounted for 38 percent of the abortions involving Minnesota women in the state last year, and self-pay covered another 38 percent. The remainder were covered by private health insurance.