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3-year abortion trends vary by state

The number of abortions in Oregon, where abortion rights are codified in law, fell from 2017 to 2020 while they rose in Washington and California
Protesters hold signs June 24 in Portland about the Supreme Court's decision overruling Roe v. Wade. [AP Photo/Craig Mitchelldyer]

A recent survey from the Guttmacher Institute documented an 8% rise in the number of abortions performed in the U.S. from 2017 to 2020, reversing what had been a nearly three-decade decline in women opting to terminate their pregnancies.

But a closer look at the findings, drawn from a comprehensive survey of every known facility providing abortions in the U.S., reveals wide variation in abortion trends among the states. While 33 states reported a rise in abortion numbers, 17 states reported declines. And the swings up or down are striking.

In Oregon, abortions dropped 11% after they were codified in law in 2017. In 2017, 9,640 abortions were recorded, with 8,560 abortions in 2020.

Among the states that saw the biggest increases were Oklahoma (+103%); Mississippi (+40%); Idaho (+31%); Kentucky (+28%); and New Mexico (+27%).

Among the states with the biggest declines were Missouri (-96%); South Dakota (-74%); West Virginia (-31%); Wyoming (-29%); and Louisiana (-26%).

Notably, states such as California and New York, which have pushed to expand abortion funding and services in recent years, saw less dramatic gains of 16% and 5%, respectively.

Guttmacher, a research organization that supports abortion rights, noted that some of the state-level swings were interwoven, as women in states that have enacted laws restricting abortion access crossed into neighboring states to seek care. This is thought to be a driving factor behind the 103% surge in Oklahoma, where women from Texas — a state with some of the nation’s strictest abortion laws — sought care before Oklahoma in May adopted its own ban on nearly all abortions.

The report’s authors cited other factors, as well, including state-level variations in access to government funding for abortion care for low-income women, and regulations issued by the Trump administration that disrupted the nation’s network of Title X family planning clinics, a vital source of low- or no-cost contraception. The Biden administration has since replaced those regulations.

The stark disparities in state abortion trends is expected to magnify in the coming year, following the Supreme Court’s June 24 decision to strike down Roe v. Wade, eliminating the nation’s long-standing federally guaranteed right to abortion and leaving the issue in the hands of state lawmakers.

Phillip Reese is a data reporting specialist and an assistant professor of journalism at California State University-Sacramento. This story was produced by KHN, which publishes California Healthline, an editorially independent service of the California Health Care Foundation. KHN (Kaiser Health News) is a national newsroom that produces in-depth journalism about health issues. Together with Policy Analysis and Polling, KHN is one of the three major operating programs at Kaiser Family Foundation, an endowed nonprofit organization providing information on health issues to the nation.