While nation’s abortion rate falls, North Dakota numbers steady (with Photo Gallery: Inside the Red River Women's Clinic)FARGO - North Dakota’s abortion numbers have held fairly steady, even as the nation’s abortion rate has fallen 5 percent – the largest single-year decrease in a decade – state and national reports show.
By: Helmut Schmidt, INFORUM
FARGO - North Dakota’s abortion numbers have held fairly steady, even as the nation’s abortion rate has fallen 5 percent – the largest single-year decrease in a decade – state and national reports show.
Minnesota’s abortion numbers have also dipped in the past few years, state reports show.
Tammi Kromenaker, director of the Red River Women’s Clinic in Fargo, the state’s only clinic that offers abortions, said she has no firm idea why North Dakota’s abortion numbers haven’t followed the national trend.
The western oil fields are booming in population, but the influx hasn’t increased abortion significantly, she said.
Overall, abortion numbers have been stable, with just a few spikes since 2001, she said.
“We are hearing that the abortion rate is declining elsewhere. In North Dakota, though, it has remained relatively the same,” Kromenaker said. “And that, I don’t know how to explain.”
The decline in national abortion rates was reported last week by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for the year 2009 – the most recent year data are available.
At the same time, North Dakota in 2009 recorded a comparatively high rate of abortions provided for out-of-state residents compared with its neighbors and the rest of the nation.
In 2009, 35.6 percent of abortions recorded in North Dakota were performed for women from other states, primarily Minnesota and South Dakota, but also from a few other states and Canada, information from the CDC and the North Dakota Department of Health shows.
Only the District of Columbia (51.8 percent) and Kansas (49.9 percent) had higher percentages of abortions for nonresidents, the CDC reported.
Minnesota providers reported 8 percent of abortions were performed for women from other states, South Dakota reported 15.2 percent and Montana reported 12.4 percent, the CDC said.
In 2007, North Dakota recorded 1,235 abortions for residents and nonresidents, according to the North Dakota Department of Health
There was an increase in North Dakota abortions to 1,386 in 2008, before the numbers fell to 1,290 in 2009, 1,291 in 2010 and 1,247 in 2011.
Minnesota recorded 13,843 abortions in 2007, followed by a downward drift – 12,948 in 2008, 12,388 in 2009, 11,505 in 2010 and 11,071 in 2011, the Minnesota Department of Health reported.
The national abortion rate for 2009 was 15.1 abortions per 1,000 women between the ages of 15 and 44, or about 227 abortions per 1,000 live births. That was down 5 percent from 2008, the CDC reported.
Abortion rates ranged from 4.0 percent in Mississippi, to 29.8 percent in New York (city and state combined) in 2009, the CDC reported in a recent Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.
North Dakota’s abortion rate was 10.1 percent in 2009, while Minnesota’s was 11.8 percent and South Dakota’s was 5 percent, the CDC reported.
The punishing recession that ended just before the latest national data was collected probably played a part in pushing abortion rates lower.
“I think when the economy is bad … people are generally pessimistic about adding to their family,” and would make a point of using birth control, Kromenaker said.
The morning-after pill – a high dose of traditional birth control medication taken within 72 hours of unprotected sex – has proven reasonably effective as emergency contraception (preventing pregnancy in 80 to 85 percent of cases), Kromenaker said.
Jen Aulwes, a spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood Minnesota North Dakota South Dakota, said her organization is encouraged by the data.
“We know that when women and teens have access to contraception and use it consistently and correctly, it will help reduce abortion,” Aulwes said.
“Whenever you’re increasing women’s access to contraception … you’ll see good news like this,” Aulwes said.
ND, SD lawsuits
North Dakota, South Dakota, Mississippi, Wyoming and Arkansas are the only states with only one abortion clinic, Kromenaker said.
Both the Fargo clinic and the Planned Parenthood-run clinic in Sioux Falls are now in court fighting state laws to restrict abortions. In both cases, restraining orders are in place until the constitutionality of the laws is determined and both clinics are operating, Kromenaker said.
The Red River Women’s Clinic has sued to fight the provisions of a law passed by the Legislature in 2011 designed to limit medication-induced abortions, Kromenaker said.
The law bans “off-label” uses of mifeprex, one of two drugs commonly used in combination to induce abortions. A drug is used “off label” when it is used for a purpose other than what it was originally approved for by the Food and Drug Administration.
Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union are fighting a South Dakota law that requires a woman to prove she has gone to a crisis pregnancy center for counseling and requires a 72-hour mandatory wait for an abortion after her initial consultation with her doctor. The doctor must also obtain written proof the woman has had required counseling.
Readers can reach Forum reporter Helmut Schmidt at (701) 241-5583
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