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Minnesota tracks slight decrease in induced abortions in 2021, most medication abortions on record

The state reported the annual statistics on who received an abortion in the state a week after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the constitutional right to an abortion.

Caryn Walters of Duluth and Madeline Nelson of Finland, Minnesota, display their signs during the Show for Roe rally at Minnesota Power Plaza on Saturday afternoon. About 100 people joined to protest recent abortion laws that have been passed or are in the works in states around the country. Tyler Schank / tschank@duluthnews.com
Caryn Walters of Duluth and Madeline Nelson of Finland, Minnesota, display their signs during the Show for Roe rally at Minnesota Power Plaza in Duluth on Saturday afternoon, June 25, 2022. About 100 people joined to protest recent abortion laws that have been passed or are in the works in states around the country.
Tyler Schank / Duluth News Tribune
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ST. PAUL — Induced abortions in Minnesota remained nearly level in 2021, the state reported on Friday, July 1, ahead of an expected increase in demand for the service following the U.S. Supreme Court ruling terminating the constitutional right to an abortion.

The Minnesota Department of Health on Friday released its annual report detailing statistics about the demographics of patients who underwent abortions in 2021 and the providers that facilitated those treatments. The information is tracked and made public under state law.

In 2021, 10,136 patients were reported to have terminated a pregnancy, down about 2% from the year prior but up from the 9,922 reported in 2019.

Roughly 61% of patients sought medication abortions in 2021, compared to 39% who obtained surgical abortion procedures. That's the highest rate of medication abortions on record in Minnesota and it comes as abortion providers pivot to expand access to medication abortion services, including adding a telehealth provider called Just the Pill that mails abortion medication to eligible patients in the state.

Use of a two-drug combination now make up over half of all abortions in the United States, according to the Guttmacher Institute, an abortion research organization. About 350,000 Google searches using those terms or "abortion pill" were conducted during the week of May 1 to 8, according to the authors of the new research letter. That first week in May is when the Supreme Court's decision that would overturn Roe v. Wade was leaked and widely reported.

The report comes a week after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the federal constitutional right to an abortion. States can now determine whether pregnant individuals have the option to end a pregnancy and dictate the parameters under which that could happen.

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A 1995 Minnesota court ruling grants the right to an abortion in the state under the state constitution and states that Medical Assistance can be used to pay for the service. And the state is set to become a relative island in the region for abortion access, as neighboring states enact bans on legal abortion.

Planned Parenthood North Central States President and CEO Sarah Stoesz on Thursday said the organization was working to increase staffing at its Minnesota clinics ahead of an expected influx of out-of-state residents seeking abortion services. Physicians at Planned Parenthood clinics performed roughly 71% of abortions in the state last year.

Minnesota is set to become an island in the region for abortion access and providers said that nonprofit clinics alone might not be able to handle all patients seeking services.

"The sands are shifting under our feet very, very rapidly. And we at Planned Parenthood and other abortion-providing health care professionals in the country are doing our best to respond, taking in a lot of new information on a practically hour-by-hour basis as things change so that we can be there to support people who have every right to get the health care that they need and that they deserve," Stoesz said.

Organizations working to end abortion in Minnesota raised questions about the accuracy of the state's data on Friday, noting that medication abortions performed by Just the Pill were not included. And they said that despite concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic limiting access to abortion services in Minnesota, induced abortion rates increased slightly compared to the year before the pandemic started.

“Despite the challenges of the pandemic, abortions have not skyrocketed, and women continue to choose life and get the support they need in Minnesota,” Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life Executive Director Scott Fischbach said. “Now, as we move into a post-Roe v. Wade era, it’s important to support and empower women and to enact commonsense protections for unborn children.”

Induced abortions have decreased by nearly 47% since their reported peak in 1980 and have hovered around the same level since 2012.

The largest age demographic to obtain an abortion in 2021 was between 25 and 29 years old. And most — 8,206 patients — reported that they were unmarried.

More than half of those who opted to terminate a pregnancy in 2021 said they chose abortion because they didn't want a child at this time, meanwhile, roughly a third left the question unanswered.

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Minnesota residents comprised the largest group to seek an abortion in the state, with 9,127 reporting that they were from the state, while 1,009 indicated that they were from another state.

MORE FROM DANA FERGUSON:
Several incumbent state legislators, particularly in the Senate, edged out competitors with more extreme views on COVID-19, election security and more.

Follow Dana Ferguson on Twitter  @bydanaferguson , call 651-290-0707 or email  dferguson@forumcomm.com.

Dana Ferguson is a Minnesota Capitol Correspondent for Forum News Service. Ferguson has covered state government and political stories since she joined the news service in 2018, reporting on the state's response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the divided Statehouse and the 2020 election.
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