Abortion Numbers Fall in Illinois, Mirroring National Trend

The latest figures from the Illinois Department of Public Health show surgical abortions performed in Illinois went down by 2.6 percent from 2011 to 2013

The annual number of abortions in Illinois is continuing to fall, reflecting a national trend and reaching the lowest point in a decades-long decline.

The latest figures show that there were 40,750 surgical abortions performed in Illinois in 2013, which is 2.6 percent fewer than the 41,859 performed in 2010, Illinois Department of Public Health data show. The numbers do not include abortions induced by prescription-only pills containing the drug mifepristone, which is also known as RU-486.

Illinois plans to include pill-induced abortions in its next report. The Guttmacher Institute, a research group that supports abortion rights, recently estimated that medical abortions in 2011 accounted for 23 percent of all abortions nationwide.

Women traveling from other states for abortions in Illinois raised the totals by approximately 3,000 abortions each year. Illinois has less restrictive abortion laws than neighboring states and shares borders with Missouri and Indiana, two states among the most aggressive in passing abortion restrictions.

Illinois does require girls younger than 18 to notify a parent or adult family member 48 hours before an abortion, unless a judge grants a waiver. Otherwise, Illinois abortion laws are considered unrestrictive compared to other states', and public funding is available for medically necessary abortions.

Nationwide, abortions have decreased by about 12 percent since 2010, according to an Associated Press survey of health data. The biggest decreases were shared almost equally by Republican-led states that have joined in enacting a wave of anti-abortion laws in recent years and states that have rejected such measures while protecting abortion rights.

In Illinois, teen pregnancy rates are falling, which may account for some of the drop in abortions. Abortion-rights advocates also credit education and increasing access to contraceptives. Abortion foes, meanwhile, cite changing attitudes toward terminating a pregnancy.

"This is the most pro-life generation we've seen in history," said Emily Zender of Illinois Right to Life. Illinois has more than 50 pregnancy resource centers that offer counseling about alternatives to abortion, Zender said.

Two Illinois abortion clinics closed in recent years following a sweep of state inspections. Abortion-rights advocates believe women who would have visited those now-closed clinics found abortions available elsewhere. Women in Rockford, for example, where a clinic closed in 2011 following health and safety violations, can obtain abortions in Madison, Wisconsin.

"Women are still obtaining abortions," said Carole Brite of Planned Parenthood of Illinois. "They have had to travel greater distances and incur greater expense to do so."

What's shifting the abortion numbers downward, Brite said, is women choosing the most effective forms of birth control such as intrauterine devices and hormonal implants. Illinois Planned Parenthood centers report a 111 percent increase between 2010 and 2013 in the use of IUDs and implants.

The Affordable Care Act boosted the trend because it requires contraceptive coverage without out-of-pocket costs for women, said Lee Hasselbacher, policy coordinator for family planning and contraceptive research at the University of Chicago.

And Illinois has urged doctors to make sure women covered by Medicaid receive information on all approved birth control methods with emphasis on presenting the most effective methods first, specifically IUDs and implants.

"In Illinois, it's a combination of education and awareness of the diverse array of contraceptives available among providers, family planning services and women, particularly young women," Hasselbacher said. "Women succeed when they find a method they like."

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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