Archive for Thursday, June 24, 2004

Fewer Kansans receiving abortions

Procedures undergone by Kansas women off 10 percent since 1996

June 24, 2004


Since 1996, the number of Kansas women getting abortions in the state has declined 10 percent.

The trend, said Don Haider-Markel, Kansas University associate professor of political science, is most likely driven by increased availability of birth-control alternatives, including so-called morning-after pills, and rural women having access to fewer abortion providers.

It does not, he said, reflect a change in the public's opinion on abortion.

"In general, that hasn't changed much," said Haider-Markel, who studies different states' abortion policies. "If it has, it's been marginal."

Last year, 11,697 abortions were performed in Kansas, according to state Department of Health and Environment records.

Of these women, 6,163 were from Kansas; 5,534 were from out of state.

By far, most of the out-of-state women were from Missouri (4,842) and Oklahoma (212); followed by New York (44), Illinois (38), Texas (34), Colorado (33) and New Jersey (30). Thirty-two were from Canada.

Kansas' teen-pregnancy numbers are down, too.

"Again, that appears to be driven by the wider availability of birth-control devices and, on the male side of things, the increased use of condoms -- not necessarily to prevent pregnancy, but to prevent HIV and sexually transmitted diseases," Haider-Markel said.

Studies, too, have shown that today's teens are less sexually active than previous generations, he said.

"Some of that seems to be a changing in attitudes toward sex," he said. "But the primary motivators is the fear of sexually transmitted diseases and getting pregnant."

In Kansas, the number of abortion providers is thought to have peaked at 26 in 1977, according to a study released last year by The Alan Guttmacher Institute. By 1996, there were 10; today, there are seven.

This decrease, Haider-Markel said, has affected rural women more than urban women.

"Over time, the number of abortion providers has remained about the same in most urban areas. In fact, in some suburban areas it's gone up slightly," he said.

"But when you look across the nation, it's the availability in the rural sector that's declined. So it's not a surprise that out-of state women account for almost half the abortions performed in Kansas," he said.

Pro-life push?

Mary Kay Culp, executive director at Kansans for Life, said Haider-Markel had underestimated the successes of the state's anti-abortion movement.

"Polls show that more and more teens are pro-life," Culp said, citing a recent UCLA study that found 55 percent of freshmen at more than 400 schools last year said abortion should be legal. A decade earlier, 64 percent thought it should be legal.

Other reasons for the decline, she said, include the efforts of the pregnancy crisis centers throughout the state as well as increased availability of sonograms that let young mothers see images of their fetuses.

"We used to spend half our time in this state arguing whether there was a human life in there," Culp said, referring to a mother's womb. "Well, the sonograms pretty much took care of that argument."

More statewide stats

Other figures cited in the state Department of Health and Environment report:

  • 85 percent of the abortions performed in the state involved women who had been pregnant for up to 12 weeks.
  • 58 percent of the women were between 20 and 29 years old. Seventy-eight abortions were performed on girls younger than 15.
  • 81 percent of the women were not married.
  • 41 percent of the women were childless at the time of their abortion; 26 percent had one child.
  • 135 of the women had five or more children at the time of their abortion.

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