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July 12, 2005
The number of abortions performed in Minnesota last year fell to the lowest level in 30 years. Also, more than 2- thousand women who sought the procedure apparently didn't end up going through with it after receiving information under an informed consent law. These are the findings in the state's annual report on abortions.
St. Paul, Minn. — The report finds that for the first time since 1976, the number of abortions performed in Minnesota was below 14,000.
In fact, there were 13,788 abortions last year.
Doug Stang is the Deputy Commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Health. He says the figure represents a continuing decline in the number of abortions performed in the state.
"We're encouraged by that number," he says. "That's a trend in the right direction. And we see that trend occuring nationally so we're encouraged by that."
The number peaked in 1980 when more than 19,000 abortions were performed. But state officials say there's been an overall downward trend since the state began collecting and reporting data on the procedure in the '70s.
This year's report also includes, for the first time, information about how many women contacted doctors about abortions. Under the new Woman's Right to Know Act, which was implemented in 2003, doctors must give patients information about the procedure, including the medical risks and pain the fetus could feel during an abortion.
More than 15,000 women received that information last year. And abortion opponents, like Scott Fischbach of Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life, say that contributed to the drop in abortion procedures.
"We know that during the course of the year -- this was the first full year that it was implemented -- over 15,000 women received information about the abortion procedure and yet only 13,788 actually went ahead with the procedure. So I think that's a clear indication that Woman's Right to Know is working," Fischbach says.
But state officials say they don't have enough information to draw any conclusions about the impact of the informed consent law. And abortion rights supporters agree people should be careful in making a connection between the number of women who contact doctors about abortions and those who actually have the procedure.
Instead, Tina Smith of Planned Parenthood of Minnesota says birth control plays a big role in reducing abortions.
"The one thing we know for sure is the best way to reduce unintended pregnancy is to get people access to birth control and give them the information they need so they can make good choices," she says. "So what Planned Parenthood has focused on and I think maybe these numbers are showing there's some success in this, is reducing the need for abortion by reducing unintended pregnancies."
Whatever the reason, all parties seem to agree that the decline in the number of abortions performed in Minnesota is good news. State officials say right now they're not trying to determine reasons, but only collecting data. They say it's probably a combination of many efforts, but they're leaving it to others to address the issue of why.