Arizona abortions fell 4.1% from 2011 to 2012, state reports

2013-08-03T00:00:00Z Arizona abortions fell 4.1% from 2011 to 2012, state reportsHoward Fischer Capitol Media Services Arizona Daily Star
August 03, 2013 12:00 am  • 

PHOENIX - Fewer women got abortions in Arizona last year than the year before.

And new restrictions imposed by lawmakers appear to be at least part of the reason for that.

New figures from the state Department of Health Services show 13,041 pregnancies by Arizona women were terminated. That compares with 13,606 the year before.

Both figures are far higher than anything in the prior decade. But the state changed its data collection procedures in late 2010, making the numbers not comparable.

Aaron Baer, spokesman for the anti-abortion Center for Arizona Policy, said the drop - about 4.1 percent among Arizona residents - stems from what he said is a "thriving pro-life movement in Arizona." That includes work by crisis pregnancy centers whose aim is to persuade women not to have abortions.

But there also are a host of regulations and restrictions lawmakers have adopted during the past few years. Planned Parenthood President Bryan Howard conceded those have made at least some difference.

"The data shows that new regulations, including multiple in-person visits required for care, are taking a bigger toll on rural Arizona women," he said in a prepared statement.

That is a direct outgrowth of a requirement for a medical doctor to perform all abortions. Prior to that, medical abortions - terminating a pregnancy with drugs - could be handled by a specially trained nurse practitioner.

The result was that Planned Parenthood no longer offers abortions at its rural Arizona clinics.

Baer called it a "common-sense" reform, saying the drug can lead to complications for women.

"It's just right that they should have a doctor administer this pill to them," he said.

But that change comes in concert with a separate law requiring a 24-hour waiting period between consultation and abortion, which Howard said works a particular hardship on those who do not live near either of the state's two metropolitan areas, where doctors are available and abortions are still performed.

State Health Director Will Humble said it's his agency's job solely to track the numbers. But he said there are probably some factors at work neither side in the abortion debate is considering.

One, he said, is a lot fewer teens are getting pregnant, with the pregnancy rate of that age group dropping about 35 percent in the last six years. Fewer pregnancies, he said, translates to fewer teens having abortions.

Humble said a potentially bigger factor is Plan B, also known as the "morning-after pill." It provides a high dose of hormones that prevent a woman from ovulating or prevent a fertilized egg from implanting in the womb.

And now, he noted, the drug is available over the counter.

"One of the impacts that you'll see is fewer abortions being tracked in our surveillance report because, A, there was never a counted pregnancy to begin with because there was never a diagnosis of pregnancy, and, B, obviously, they're not getting counted as an abortion," he said.

And none of that has anything to do with state legislation.

There are a couple of pending legislative issues, though, that might affect future reports.

One is a state law that denies Medicaid family-planning funds to any organization that also performs abortions.

Both state and federal law already ban the use of public dollars for abortions that are not medically necessary. But proponents of this measure, approved in 2012, contend those Medicaid dollars indirectly subsidize then procedure.

That law, however, remains unenforceable following a federal court ruling. The issue is now on appeal.

That same year legislators approved another measure that effectively bans abortions after the 19th week of pregnancy. But that, too, was enjoined by a federal judge and also is being appealed.

The effect of that law might have on the overall rate, however, is probably minimal: Only 186 of the abortions performed in Arizona last year were in cases where the fetus was at least 20 weeks along.

"It's just right that they should have a doctor administer this pill to them."

Aaron Baer, spokesman for the anti-abortion Center for Arizona Policy

Rate of Arizona abortions

Rate of abortions per 1,000 women Year Number of childbearing age

2002 10,397 9

2003 10,154 8.5

2004 12,301 10

2005 10,446 8.1

2006 10,506 8.2

2007 10,486 8.1

2008 10,396 7.8

2009 10,045 7.5

2010 11,059 8.8

2011* 13,606 10.7

2012* 13,041 10.2

* 2011 and 2012 figures not directly comparable with prior numbers due to change in reporting standards

Source: Arizona Department of Health Services

Abortions by age group

Age Number

Less than 15 49

15-17 414

18-19 1,077

20-24 4,321

25-29 3,281

30-34 2,181

35-39 1,250

40-44 517

45 and older 39

Source: Arizona Department of Health Services

2012 abortions by county

County Number Rate

Apache 16 1.21

Cochise 139 6.21

Coconino 165 5.29

Gila 34 4.55

Graham 31 4.50

Greenlee 47 29.80

La Paz 7 2.90

Maricopa 8,749 10.94

Mohave 41 1.40

Navajo 70 3.72

Pima 2,186 11.31

Pinal 412 5.91

Santa Cruz 32 3.45

Yavapai 173 5.76

Yuma 78 1.98

Unknown 78 NA

Source: Arizona Department of Health Services

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