Minn. abortion rates at lowest since 1975

Reasons for the steady decline could include different responses to pregnancy and more contraception use.

by Jade Lomeli

The abortion rate in Minnesota is at its lowest in nearly 40 years, according to the Minnesota Department of Health.

University of Minnesota community members on both sides of the abortion debate said increased sex education and awareness of alternatives to the procedure have driven rates down to 11,071 — veering close to the nearly 10,565 performed in 1975, when the state began tracking abortions.

MDH data show rates have steadily declined since 1980, when they reached a high of more than 19,028.

Jen Aulwes, spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood of Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota, said sex education and contraceptives have contributed to the decrease in abortions.

Aulwes said Planned Parenthood has played a role in the decrease in abortion rates — in 2010, its branches distributed more than 350,000 units of contraception throughout Minnesota and the Dakotas.

The MDH started the Positive Alternatives Program, which provides funds to centers that assist women carrying a pregnancy to term, in 2005. According to the program’s website, it currently funds about 30 centers, including the University LifeCare Center, a  pregnancy resource facility near the University.

“Organizations like us exist to make sure people know they have three choices, not just one,” said Lisa Schmitz, executive director of the ULCC.

The ULCC is the founding center of the Total LifeCare network, which consists of 27 centers in the metro area and Wisconsin. The center provides information on parenting, adoption and abortion, though it doesn’t refer clients to abortion centers.

Kelsey Pexa, president of the University Pro-Choice Coalition,  said the decrease in rates can be attributed to different things. The financial burden of getting an abortion, an increase in sex education and political pressure from religious or political groups could all have bearings on the lower rate.

“We try to convince people to seek help from a medical expert,” Pexa said.

She said medical experts typically avoid asserting their personal beliefs or opinions on patients, making them a reliable resource.

“If you go to a pregnancy center, they are typically religiously affiliated and not always true,” Pexa said.

John Capistrant, president of the anti-abortion student group Students for Human Life, said the decrease in abortion rates is related to the anti-abortion resources made available through pregnancy crisis centers and life care centers.

“By making it known that there are other options out there, it is making women seek those options first before terminating their pregnancies,” Capistrant said.

Capistrant said abortion rates are dropping due to young people educating their peers about their options and about where they can go to seek help.

“It’s really not something a lot of college students think about until it happens to them,” Pexa said.