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Group reports drop in number of abortions in Arizona

Group reports drop in number of abortions in ArizonaA powerful Evangelical Christian lobby is claiming that abortion cases have dropped as a result of laws it championed at the state Capitol.

The Center for Arizona Policy said nearly 1,200 fewer women underwent an abortion between August 2011 and July 2012 when compared to the same period the year before.

That is a decrease of 7.3 percent in abortion procedures in Arizona. The influential lobby partly attributed this drop to the “growing prolife movement in the state.”

“In recent years, Arizona has seen a number of common sense abortion safety standards and informed consent provisions take effect. It is encouraging to see that more and more moms are choosing life,” said Cathi Herrod, the center’s president.

The center used data from the state Department of Health Services from Aug. 2011-July 2012 compared to Aug. 2010-July 2011.

For years, Herrod and the prolife movement’s allies have aggressively pushed for the passage of proposals that restrict abortion.

But they became especially successful under Gov. Jan Brewer, who in 2009 succeeded Janet Napolitano, the Democratic governor who left Arizona to join President Barack Obama’s cabinet as secretary of Homeland Security.

Brewer proved to be the prolife movement’s biggest ally, signing into law a staccato of socially conservative measures.

If the number is accurate, Rep. Lela Alston, a prochoice Democrat from Phoenix, said the decrease in abortion is a good thing.

“We would want to reduce the number of abortions,” she said.

But Alston quickly added that she hopes the drop is the result of women becoming more careful and better educated about their health, and of teenagers who are having fewer unwanted pregnancies.

“I hope it’s not because women are being intimidated about having honest discussions with their doctors and medical care providers,” she told the Arizona Capitol Times.

Alston is referring to statutory restrictions that prochoice activists say are interfering in the private lives of women and their ability to choose what’s best for their health.  

Over the years, pro-life activists have persuaded lawmakers to ban late-term abortion, redefined the procedure to include the taking of pills to terminate a pregnancy and added a host of requirements before the procedure, such as getting an ultrasound.

In its annual report, the Department of Health Services reported early this month that abortion cases increased by 26 percent between 2011 and 2010.  The reports were based on the calendar years.

 The department earlier noted that a law that took effect in August 2010 made reporting by abortion clinics mandatory.  Prior to the law, the department was already collecting abortion information, although clinics weren’t legally compelled to report cases.

 The reporting is also done electronically now.

 In short, the 2011 report combines data from two different reporting schemes and should therefore be interpreted with caution. 

 In an email, the Center for Arizona Policy said it’s more accurate to look at the data after the 2010 law took into effect.

Any report prior to August 2010 is unreliable, the center said.

Instead, the center looked at abortion cases from August 2011 to July 2012, compared them to the numbers during the previous 12 months, and concluded abortion cases have decreased.

Reached on the phone, Theresa Ulmer, a lobbyist for Planned Parenthood, essentially said it’s too early to conclude whether there’s a real drop in abortion or not.

She surmised there was some decrease because of additional regulations mandated by the state.

“But as Planned Parenthood has reorganized to make sure they’re offering the services that are needed, you’re going to see those numbers go back up to where they were before,” Ulmer said. “I think you will see that the decrease, if there actually is one, was probably a short-term impact.”

When asked if reducing abortion isn’t a good thing, Ulmer said the goal is to reduce the number of unintended pregnancies.

Additionally, she said she doesn’t know if the drop reflects the actual number for Arizona residents or whether they’re going to other states for the procedure.

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