Abortions dropped in Arizona in 2015, continuing four-year decline

A vendor at the 2017 March for Life in Washington last week. Recent data show the numbers of abortions in the state and nation are continuing to drop. (Photo by Bo Tefu/Cronkite News)

Protesters at the 2017 March for Life in Washington, where a frequent target last week was Planned Parenthood – which backers say is part of the solution to abortions. (Photo by Bo Tefu/Cronkite News)

WASHINGTON – The number of abortions in Arizona fell in 2015, continuing a four-year trend that began in 2011, according to Arizona Department of Health Services.

The department said there were 12,479 abortions and 85,024 births in 2015, the latest year for which numbers are available, for a rate of 9.5 abortions per 1,000 women of child-bearing age that year.

That was down from 13,606 abortions in 2011, when rate was 10.7 per 1,000 women in 2011.

Reproductive-rights groups attributed the decline to “more women using better contraceptives in the country.”

“Fewer women in the country are having unintended pregnancies,” said Rachel Jones, a principal research scientist at Guttmacher Institute, who attributed it in part to a rise in contraceptive use nationwide.

But Jones agreed that a decline in abortions nationally could be traced in part to what she called TRAP regulations – Targeted Restrictions to Abortion Providers – “the laws and restrictions that reduce access to abortion facilities.” Arizona is one of the states that has enacted such regulations in recent years, she said.

That’s just fine with Cathi Herrod, president of the Center for Arizona Policy, which advocates for family and traditional values.

“Arizona promotes policies and legislation opposing policies that aren’t in favor of prolife,” Herrod said.

Herrod said she is pleased with the abortion decline and plans to continue fighting.

“I am a strong pro-life advocate and I aim to pursue pro-life policies,” Herrod said.

The state numbers showed that non-Hispanic white women had the most abortions in 2015, with 5,378 abortions that year. Women aged 20 to 24 years old accounted for the largest number of abortions in the state among women of child-bearing age, generally 15 to 44 years old.

Herrod said pro-life advocates “have been waiting on federal government to take the necessary steps to respond to our demands.” But with Republicans in control of Congress and President Donald Trump in the White House, “it’s a new day” for the pro-life movement, she said.

“We anticipate the Trump administration will replace ACA (the Affordable Care Act) with a national health care that saves lives,” Herrod said. “The Trump administration has implemented a prolife policy, in the long run it should defund Planned Parenthood, and fund community health centers.”

But an official with Planned Parenthood Arizona said the decline in abortions is a positive outcome of outreach programs by her agency and the hard work it has put in to providing women with health resources.

“We exist so women can have healthy secure lives,” said Jodi Liggett, vice president of public affairs for the state chapter of Planned Parenthood.

“Abortion is legal under the right circumstances and reproductive rights are by protected by the Constitution,” Liggett said. “If you hate abortion get contraceptives.”

She said that targeting women’s health groups like hers could backfire on abortion opponents.

“It’s a very dangerous time for women,” Liggett said. “Making abortion illegal won’t end abortion. It will just push the industry to go underground.”

Although pro-choice and pro-life groups are often pitted against each other, Liggett said they do share common ground.

“We’re both advocating for every child to be wanted and for children to grow up in healthy secure homes,” Liggett said.