Alaska saw a record low number of reported abortions last year. According to the state’s Bureau of Vital Statistics 1,334 abortions were performed in 2015, the fewest since 2003 when Alaska began recording data.
Last year’s figures represent a 12 percent drop over 2014 and a nearly 32 percent reduction from a decade ago when 1,956 abortions were reported. The state’s statistics are based on forms submitted from across Alaska by abortion practitioners who are required by law to report the procedures.
The decreased abortions reflect a larger trend across the nation. In December the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reported that the U.S. abortion rate has dropped by more than one-third during the two decades between 1990 and 2010.
Since the U.S. Supreme Court legalized abortion 43 years ago in Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton, there have been more than 58 million abortions.
CAUSES OF ABORTION DECLINE
While difficult to pin down the exact reasons why abortion numbers appear to be dropping in Alaska and across the nation, some pro-life leaders point to legislation protecting the right to life, as well as a larger cultural shift in which younger Americans are increasingly standing up for unborn babies.
“People’s attitudes and actions regarding abortion have changed,” Randall O’Bannon, director of education and research for the National Right to Life Educational Trust Fund, told CBS News.
According to a 2015 report from LifeSiteNews, more than 230 pro-life laws have been enacted across the United States since 2010.
In 2005 Alaska approved a law requiring the state to maintain an abortion information website and abortion practitioners to provide women with information on fetal development and possible risks associated with abortion. The state website includes information about the abortion-breast cancer link.
Additionally, in 2010 Alaska enacted a parental notice law that requires an abortionist to notify the parent of a minor before performing an abortion, unless the minor is the victim of abuse, there is a medical emergency or she obtains a court order. Consent of the parent is not required before the minor’s abortion.
Additional laws recognize the humanity of the unborn in Alaska. The state allows for “Choose Life” specialty license plates, and under Alaska’s criminal law an unborn child may be considered a victim of murder, manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide. Alaska also criminalizes nonfatal assaults on the unborn and allows a wrongful death lawsuit if an unborn child is born alive following a negligent or criminal act and dies thereafter.
Also, Alaska provides immunity for parents who leave an unharmed newborn with police, medical personnel, emergency services personnel or any person the parent believes will act in the baby’s best interest.
In the case of a stillbirth, Alaska law requires that parents be advised that they may request a “Certificate of Birth Resulting in Stillbirth.”
TEENS & THE UNMARRIED
Of the 1,334 Alaska abortions in 2015, there were 42 performed on teens, ages 15 to 17 — a drop from 68 in 2014. There were four abortions on girls under age 15, compared to six in 2014 and nine in 2013. Overall there were 110 teen abortions last year, down from 145 in 2014.
Alaska’s figures mirror a decrease in teen abortions nationally. The latest CDC figures show declining rates for teenagers 15-19, a group that saw a 12.3 percent drop in one year. All together, teens 15-19 saw a drop of 40.4 percent between 2003 and 2012.
Alaskan women in their 20s were, by far, the largest group to obtain abortions. They accounted for 806 abortions or nearly 60 percent. Unmarried women were more likely to get abortions than married. More than 80 percent of women who obtained abortions in 2015 were unmarried, while 18.5 percent were married. Across the U.S., the most recent information shows 85 percent of women who obtained abortions were unmarried.
RACE & ETHNICITY
As in past years, minorities in Alaska are over-represented in the state’s latest report. Black, Asian/Pacific Islander and Alaska Native women are more likely to undergo an abortion than their white counterparts.
Asian/ Pacific Islanders accounted for 8.6 percent of Alaska abortions in 2015 but only comprised 7.4 percent of the state’s population according to the latest U.S. Census figures. Similarly, black Alaskans account for 7.6 percent of abortions, while making up only 3.9 percent of the population. Nearly 19 percent of abortions take place on Alaska Natives, while this group makes up fewer than 15 percent of the overall population. These trends are reversed when it comes to white Alaskans which make up nearly 67 percent of the population but only procure 60.7 percent of the abortions.
Pro-life advocates have long pointed to the high number of minority abortions as a reason for greater outreach and support for these groups.
“More pro-life outreach clearly needs to be done to these minority communities,” Carol Tobias, president of the National Right to Life Committee, said earlier this year. “The availability and awareness of realistic alternatives to abortion are critical to these communities.”
AGE OF UNBORN BABY
According to the state’s report, the vast majority of abortions last year took place from the fifth week through the fourth month of pregnancy. As in recent years, more than 25 percent of those abortions were performed using RU-486. The high-powered mix of synthetic hormones causes the unborn baby’s nourishing placenta to detach from the uterine wall and induces contractions.
RU-486 is typically used for up to about two months gestation. According to the state’s report, 341 abortions were done using this method which requires at least three trips to the abortion facility. After the first round of drugs is administered in the clinic, up to 30 percent of women abort later at home or work, and as many as five days later.
There are serious and well-documented medical side effects of RU-486 abortions, including prolonged, severe bleeding and life-threatening systemic infection. According to a 2011 FDA report, 14 women in the United States have died from using the mifepristone abortion drug and 2,207 women have been injured by it.
Despite these dangers — which increase with the age of the unborn baby — the increased use of RU-486 across the nation coincides with a push by Planned Parenthood for its expanded use.
PAIN OF ABORTION
In most cases — 936 — abortion practitioners in Alaska report using suction curettage or vacuum aspiration. In those surgical abortions, an abortionist vacuums the unborn baby from womb with a high-powered suction machine. In the process, the baby’s body is torn apart and he or she dies.
According to the 2015 report, there were 52 dilation and evacuation abortions in Alaska. In D&E abortions, the abortionist, using a long clamp, grasps the limbs of the unborn baby and tears them off, and the baby dies.
Increasing awareness of the methods of abortion and the unborn baby’s capacity for pain has led to legislative efforts to safeguard women and children. For instance, there are federal and state bans — including in Alaska — on partial-birth abortion, and some states have enacted laws allowing women to choose anesthesia for their babies being aborted.
PUBLIC FUNDING OF ABORTIONS
Alaska taxpayers are required by court order to fund “medically necessary” abortions for women eligible for public assistance through Medicaid. This requirement essentially equates to funding abortion-on-demand for any reason. Legislative efforts to limit and specify what constitutes “medically necessary” were struck down by the Alaska Supreme Court last year. In 2015, 438 of all Alaska abortions (33 percent) were paid for through state Medicaid funds.