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Explanations vary on drop in Arizona abortions

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New figures Monday show that fewer abortions were performed in Arizona than in the prior three years.

But abortion rights advocates and foes of the procedure have sharply different reasons to explain the numbers. And they don’t even agree which numbers are the most significant.

What is clear is that the report from the Arizona Department of Health Services shows 12,900 abortions were performed last year. That’s down 501 from 2013 — and more than 1,500 less than in 2011.

Cathi Herrod, president of the anti-abortion Center for Arizona Policy, said the figures mirror a change in public attitudes.

“The abortion numbers reflect what we see happening throughout the country, that America is becoming an increasingly pro-life country,” she said. “Americans, Arizonans included, recognize that abortion is not the solution to an unwanted or a surprise pregnancy.”

But Bryan Howard, president of Planned Parenthood Arizona, pointed out that the number of abortions actually increased among residents of the state’s urban areas, with the net decline all due to rural numbers.

He blames a requirement inserted into Arizona law — at CAP behest — for a 24-hour waiting period. That means two in-person visits to a clinic.

Howard said that’s not a huge hurdle for women who live in the same city where abortions are performed

“Yes, you’re taking more time off work, yes, you’re taking more time away from your kids,” he said.

“But you can manage it,” Howard continued. “If you’re living in a rural county and you have to do that, that presents much more substantial challenge.”

Howard said it’s not that women in rural areas are having less sex, or even getting pregnant less often.

Instead, he said, they’re using emergency contraception, whether it’s the “morning-after” pill or even insertion of an intrauterine device, both of which can block a fertilized egg from implanting.

“It’s neither an abortion nor is it a live birth,” Howard said, which means the numbers do not show up in the health department report.

Herrod, however, rejected the contention that any of the laws her organization has helped push through the Legislature amount to hurdles for women who want an abortion.

“The pro-life laws give women information they need to make a decision about whether or not to have an abortion,” she said. And Herrod said that includes the 24-hour waiting period.

“There are very few medical procedures that you would call, make the appointment, get the diagnosis and have the procedure in one day or in one appointment,” she said.

Herrod said the law requires an in-person consultation with the doctor, an ultrasound examination, and being told ahead of time about the risks and alternatives to abortion.

It may soon include something else for women undergoing a medication abortion: being told that the procedure may be reversible after the first drug is given but before the second. That law, approved earlier this year, is on hold until a federal judge gets to hear arguments next week about its legality.

A separate court is weighing another CAP-sponsored law to limit medication abortions to just the first seven weeks of pregnancy, requiring a surgical procedure after that, instead of the common practice through nine weeks. Federal courts have so far blocked the state from enforcing that until there can be a full trial.

The health department has reports going back far longer than 2011. But the numbers are not comparable.

Prior to then, abortion providers filed paper reports. State health officials said that often led to problems keeping track of data.
The current system requires clinics and doctors to file electronic reports. Health officials said that mandate, coupled with better training of abortion providers and their staffs, is designed to provide better data to use for comparisons.

Year / Total abortions / Abortions to Arizonans / Live Births to Arizonans / Ratio*

2011 / 14,401 / 13,606 / 85,190 / 160

2012 / 13,340 / 13,129 / 85,725 / 153

2013 / 13,401 / 13,254 / 84,963 / 156

2014 / 12,900 / 12,747 / 86,648 / 147

* Ratio is number of abortions compared to 1,000 live births

— Source: Arizona Department of Health Services

—-

Abortions over 20 weeks:

Year / Number / Percent of total

2011 / 141 / 1.04%

2012 / 124 / 0.94%

2013 / 137 / 1.03%

2014 / 132 / 1.04%

— Source: Arizona Department of Health Services

—-

Abortions by select age groups:

Year / Younger than 15 / 15-19 / Older than 40

2011 / 49 / 1,732 / 545

2012 / 49 / 1,491 / 556

2013 / 20 / 1,421 / 496

2014 / 22 / 1,227 / 545

— Source: Arizona Department of Health Services

—-

2014 Abortions by county of residence of woman:

County / Number / Rate* / Ratio**

Apache / 8 / 0.6 / 7.9

Cochise / 47 / 2.2 / 28.7

Coconino / 157 / 4.7 / 92.5

Gila / 33 / 4.4 / 51.0

Graham / 15 / 2.1 / 24.9

La Paz / 7 / 2.8 / 33.2

Maricopa / 8,687 / 0.7 / 10.4

Mohave / 19 / 0.7 / 10.4

Navajo / 41 / 2.2 / 25.6

Pima / 1,964 / 10.0 / 166.3

Pinal / 314 / 4.6 / 70.1

Santa Cruz / 26 / 2.8 / 43.6

Yavapai / 164 / 5.6 / 84.7

Yuma / 67 / 1.7 / 21.9

Unknown / 1,127 / NA / NA

* Rate is abortions per 1,000 women of child-bearing age (15-44)

** Ratio is abortions per 1,000 live births

— Source: Arizona Department of Health Services

About Howard Fischer, Capitol Media Services

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