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Minn. abortions down slightly in 2018; more out-of-state women cross border for procedure

Thousands of abortion opponents march on the Minnesota Capitol Jan. 22, 2019, to mark the anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court's landmark decision in Roe v. Wade and to urge restrictions on the procedure. Dana Ferguson / Forum News Service1 / 2
Hundreds of protesters rally at the Minnesota Capitol on May 21, 2019, to oppose restrictions on abortions, like those recently signed into law in Alabama and other states. Dana Ferguson / Forum News Service2 / 2

ST. PAUL — Fewer women sought induced abortions in Minnesota in 2018 as compared to a year earlier, state statistics show, but the number of women from outside the state seeking the procedure grew during that timeframe.

The figures come from a Department of Health report published on Monday, July 1, outlining induced abortion procedures in Minnesota. The data is the most recent available.

The total number of abortions performed in the state decreased by 2.25% in 2018 as compared to the year prior. There were 9,910 induced abortions performed in 2018, per the report released Monday.

The bulk of the abortions performed occurred early in pregnancy, with 6,853 of the procedures occurring before the fetuses reached an estimated nine weeks of gestational age. Four of the reported abortions took place after an estimated 31 weeks of pregnancy.

Reproductive rights groups attributed the decrease to broader access to birth control and sex education. Abortion opponents, meanwhile, said abortion alternatives and funds granted to help raise children helped curb the number of abortions performed in the state.

"When we see a decrease like this we are really, really excited about this; we are happy about this because it shows that what we are doing is working," Scott Fischbach, executive director of Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life, said.

Fischbach said the lower number of minors who obtained abortions, along with the overall decrease, indicated that his group's work to require parental consent for minors to obtain abortions in the state and to encourage alternatives was successful. According to the report, 221 minors received abortions in 2018, the lowest number since the state began recording induced abortion statistics.

Andrea Ledger, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Minnesota, noted that the report is an outlier as few other medical procedures are tracked and evaluated as closely as abortions.

"Women seek abortions for all different reasons, and I don't see an increase or a decrease in the rate as particularly positive or negative in any way," Ledger said. "Abortion care is health care, and fluctuations in the report don't say much beyond women are seeking health care in the state of Minnesota."

Nearly one in nine of the abortions reported were performed on women who lived in surrounding states, 1,012 in total. That figure increased by nearly 8 percent compared to a year prior. That increase comes as state legislatures in Minnesota's neighboring states passed and enacted laws limiting access to abortion in recent years.

The latest reports of induced abortions in 2018 showed that the number of women who sought induced abortions in South Dakota decreased by 23% compared to the year prior and in North Dakota the number decreased by just over 1%.

Ledger said the bump in out-of-state residents seeking abortions in Minnesota stemmed from limited access to abortion in women's home states. Fischbach said those figures are subject to variation based on several factors, not just the legal framework in other states.

Republican lawmakers in Minnesota's divided Capitol earlier this year sought to limit access to the procedure, but Democrats sunk those efforts.

And in May, a coalition of reproductive rights, religious and health care groups filed a lawsuit against the state, challenging a slate of state laws that restrict access to abortion and limit advertisement of treatments for sexually transmitted infection, alleging they run afoul of the Minnesota Constitution.

Attorney General Keith Ellison, a Democrat who has supported efforts to expand access to abortion, has said he'll work to defend the laws.