State of Nebraska releases detailed abortion statistics

2013-01-22T05:00:00Z State of Nebraska releases detailed abortion statisticsBy JORDAN PASCALE / Lincoln Journal Star JournalStar.com

Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that gave women the right to have an abortion, is 40 years old Tuesday.

Last week, the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services released its annual vital statistics, which includes detailed and comprehensive statistics on abortions in the state.

The 10-page report says the number of abortions continues to fall in Nebraska. There were 2,372 abortions performed in 2011, the latest year for which data is available, down nearly 63 percent since 1991 and down 3.7 percent since 2010.

Nebraska peaked at 6,730 abortions in 1984, and the number mostly has declined since.

The ratio of abortions to births also has plummeted. There were 257.7 abortions per 1,000 live births in 1991. It's since fallen to 90.9 per 1,000.

Dr. Jill Meadows, medical director for Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, said Nebraska's rapid decline matches the nation's, and she attributes it to better access to contraception and family planning services.

"However, reproductive health disparities remain, particularly among lower-income women," she said in an email. "Planned Parenthood works every day to reduce these reproductive health disparities by ensuring that every woman, regardless of her economic circumstances, has meaningful access to the information and services she needs to prevent unintended pregnancy."

The statistics are required to be collected under a state law passed in 1973. Clinics send reports to the state on a weekly or monthly basis.

There are three clinics in Nebraska that perform abortions: one in Bellevue and Planned Parenthood centers in Omaha and Lincoln. Hospitals and doctors in private practice also offer abortions, Meadows says.

Statistics from the report

What:

* An average of 198 abortions occur in the state each month.

* Nebraska's abortion rate is less than half the national rate. 

Who:

* Teenagers had about 15 percent of all abortions. Fifty-eight percent of women are in their 20s and about 23 percent are in their 30s. 

* The average age of a woman having an abortion was 25.8.

* The youngest person to have an abortion was 13. The oldest, 51.

* The question of marital status is optional, but 11.1 percent said they never have been married, 2 percent said they were married, 1 percent were divorced and 0.7 percent were separated.

* A woman's education level also was an optional question, but 6 percent said they had been through some college, 4.6 percent had completed high school and 3.1 percent said they had college degrees.

* One doctor performed more than 1,200 abortions in 2011.

Where:

* Three clinics in Nebraska perform abortions. Fifty-two percent are done in Sarpy County, where Dr. LeRoy Carhart runs an abortion and family planning clinic in Bellevue. Lancaster County accounts for 32 percent, and Douglas County accounts for 16 percent.

* Ten percent of women having abortions in Nebraska are from another state. About 145 women came from Iowa.

* There are no abortion clinics west of Lincoln. Rural Nebraskans have more difficulty accessing reproductive health care because of the time and expense of traveling to a larger city, Meadows said. A woman in western Nebraska will travel to Lincoln or metro Omaha, or she may travel to Denver or Sioux Falls for abortion services. 

Why:

* About 52 percent, or 1,232 women, said they didn't use contraception as the reason for their abortion. About 37 percent reported socio-economic reasons for their abortion. About 18.8 percent, or 445 women, said their contraception failed.

* Julie Schimt-Albin, executive director of Nebraska Right to Life, said a state law implemented in 2010 that banned abortions after 20 weeks' gestation has led to fewer abortions more recently.

How many: 

* 1,624 women, or 68.5 percent, reported it was their first abortion. More than 21 percent said it was their second abortion. 

* Ten women had had more than four abortions.

* One-third of abortions occurred during the fifth week to the ninth week of pregnancy. About 20 percent occurred in the first five weeks.

Reach Jordan Pascale at 402-473-7120, jpascale@journalstar.com or follow him @LJSPascale.

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