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Report Shows Arizona Abortions Are Declining, But Experts Disagree Why

By Phil Latzman
Howard Fischer
Published: Monday, October 12, 2015 - 5:43pm
Updated: Tuesday, October 13, 2015 - 2:03pm
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New figures released by the state show abortions are declining in Arizona. But pro-life groups and abortion access advocates disagree when it comes to the reasons why.

The report from the state Department of Health Services shows a 3.7 percent decrease from 2013 to 2014, with about 500 fewer abortion procedures performed in the state year to year. When compared to 2011, the numbers show an 11 percent decrease in abortion procedures.

Cathi Herrod of the Center for Arizona Policy said she is certain the decline is a result of an effort to implement new laws, including a 24-hour wait period, making abortions harder for women to get.

“The collection of pro-life laws that have passed in the last few years have led to a decrease in abortions. The net effect of the pro-life laws is that women have information they need to make an informed choice about whether or not to have an abortion. It’s a good day for Arizona. It’s a good day for women.”

But Bryan Howard, president of Planned Parenthood Arizona said figures show abortions in urban parts of the state are actually on the rise, and the overall decline was mostly from rural areas among women finding it difficult to find access to the procedure.

“Rural abortion procedures went down 715 from 2013 to 2014. If you're living in a rural county and you have to do that, that presents much more substantial challenge.” Howard said.

“Reducing the number of abortions for rural women by simply making it impossible for them to get over the hurdles to get the care is not a victory for public health, it’s not a victory for women and it’s not a victory for morality.”

Dr. Julie Kwatra of Arizona Women’s Care in Scottsdale said both sides may be overstating their arguments.

“I think it’s too complex an equation to point to one thing and say that’s definitely the reason,” she said.

Improved access to contraceptions may be the biggest factor in the decrease, even if the numbers are not reflected in the state report, she said.

“With the Affordable Care Act, there has been much improved access to birth control and much more affordability for contraception, especially the long-acting reversible contraception that used to be prohibitively expensive for women.”  

Howard agreed and said birth rates went up in rural Arizona at the exact same rate as urban areas.

“The difference has been abortions. The impact has really been felt by rural women,” he said. 

Herrod said wherever the decrease is coming from, the figures still reflect a change in public attitudes.

“The abortion numbers reflect what we see happening throughout the country, that America is becoming an increasingly pro-life country, that Americans, Arizonans included, recognize that abortion is not the solution to an unwanted or a surprise pregnancy,” she said.

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