Why abortions have declined in Minnesota

Editor’s note. This appeared yesterday on the blog of Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life (MCCL).

The number of abortions in Minnesota has declined for four straight years, and dipped more than 22 percent between 2000 to 2010. Last year’s total was 7 percent less than the previous year — the largest decrease in nearly 20 years.

Abortions are now at their lowest level since 1975. The abortion rate may be the lowest ever recorded, and is about half the national abortion rate.

This is wonderful news that has observers asking: What accounts for the decrease? There are probably many factors, including outreach to pregnant women in need, public education and increased awareness of the humanity of the unborn child. But I suspect the biggest factor is the pro-life laws that have been enacted in our state. Let me mention three important ones.

(1) The current four-year abortion decline coincides with the implementation of 2005’s Positive Alternatives Act, which provides grants to pregnancy care centers that help women in less-than-ideal circumstances, offering life-affirming alternatives to abortion. Reports from the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) show that more than 25,000 women statewide were helped through the Positive Alternatives program in its first four years (July 2006-June 2010).

(2) The Woman’s Right to Know informed consent law, passed in 2003, saves unborn lives from abortion every year. Under this law last year, 14,208 abortion-minded pregnant women received important factual information about fetal development and abortion risks, complications and alternatives. That number is 2,703 more than the number who actually underwent abortions.

(3) The number of abortions performed on minors peaked in 1980 at 2,327. In 1981 Minnesota passed a law requiring that both parents be notified at least 48 hours before an abortion is performed on a minor (there is a judicial bypass option, as required by the courts). After years of steady decline, minor abortions last year fell almost 17 percent to 482, the lowest number on record (statistics for minors go back to 1975) and only 4 percent of all abortions.

It seems reasonable to conclude that these three measures have had a large role to play in the decreasing number of abortions. And it’s not only pro-lifers who think so. From an Associated Press story two years ago (following a similar 6.5 percent abortion decline in Minnesota):

Wendy Hellerstedt, a professor at the University of Minnesota’s School of Public Health who studies reproductive issues, said the [abortion] declines may be explained by state policy changes in the past few years that deter abortions.

For example, she said, Minnesota now requires the notification of parents before minors can get an abortion. In addition, she said, all women now must receive state-specified counseling that discourages abortion, and they must observe a 24-hour waiting period.

“There has been an escalation of policies that limit access,” Hellerstedt said.

Extensive research from outside of Minnesota confirms that typical pro-life measures — informed consent laws (such as our Woman’s Right to Know), parental involvement requirements (such as ours), bans on taxpayer funding of abortion, etc. — work to significantly reduce the number of abortions. There can be little doubt about this. Many children (probably thousands) are alive today who would have been dismembered and killed in utero were it not for the enactment of the MCCL-backed Positive Alternatives, Woman’s Right to Know and parental notification laws.

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