Alaska’s latest annual report on abortions reveals that abortion practitioners are increasingly failing to provide specific answers to questions about their practice or only partially filling out responses to queries about how, why and at what gestational ages abortions were performed, as well as how old women and minor girls were who underwent the procedures.
According to the state’s Bureau of Vital Statistics, in 2013, the total number of reported abortions dropped while abortions on young Alaskan teens rose slightly. The bureau’s figures are based on forms submitted by abortion practitioners across the state.
But increasingly, abortion practitioners declined to disclose data such as ages of the babies they aborted and the methods they used.
Abortionists are required by state law to report within 30 days after an abortion is completed. But they can avoid details about the abortions by leaving blank or marking “other” — even when they have access to information such as the abortion methods they used.
Abortion practitioners risk little if they don’t fully report or even if they furnish false information: a misdemeanor and, if convicted, a fine of not more than $100.
NUMBER OF TEEN ABORTIONS UNCLEAR
Of the 1,450 induced abortions reported in 2013, there were 68 abortions on young teens, ages 15 to 17 — a slight uptick from 62 in 2012. There were nine abortions on girls under age 15; in 2012 and 2011, there were seven, respectively.
At the same time, the number of abortions in which abortion practitioners do not state the age of the girl or woman more than doubled. In 2013, it was 42; in 2012, it was 20. And that number has jumped precipitously across recent years: In 2011, it was nine; in 2010, it was seven.
It is unclear why abortion practitioners increasingly are not stating the ages of those who undergo abortions, and if that means there are more teen abortions being performed than reported. The state’s parental notice law, passed by voters in ballot initiative in 2010, requires one parent be informed before a minor girl undergoes an abortion.
But Planned Parenthood, the largest provider of abortions in the nation, opposes the parental notice law and is challenging it in court. Alaska State Supreme Court justices heard oral arguments on Feb. 19, and a decision is expected later this year. Gov. Sean Parnell’s administration is defending the law.
According to the state’s report, most — 1,372 — abortions took place in Alaska from the first week through the fifth month of pregnancy. But again, abortion practitioners submitted reports with omissions. In 78 cases the abortion practitioners declined to identify the gestational age of the baby they aborted.
As in recent years, over 20 percent of last year’s abortions were reportedly performed using RU-486. The high-powered mix of synthetic hormones — mifepristone and misoprostol — 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, there were at least six done up through the third month of pregnancy. And 32 were done at gestational ages not stated.
The RU-486 procedure 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 in Alaska coincides with a push by Planned Parenthood for its expanded use in the U.S. and abroad via “telemed” abortions.
In some cases, abortion practitioners chose to not specify the method of abortion they used.
Most — 942 — reported 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 report, there were 164 dilation and evacuation abortions. 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.
In 33 cases, the abortion method was identified only as “other.”
Among abortionists across the country, there are a number of often-used methods, including induction termination or live-birth abortion, in which the baby is delivered prematurely and then is destroyed or left to die.
Another method involves injecting the powerful drug digoxin into the unborn baby’s heart to stop it. This method is often used in conjunction with induction terminations. In a 2010 article, Society of Family Planning, a research association that supports abortion, explained that “inducing demise before induction terminations at near viable gestational ages to avoid signs of life at delivery is practiced widely.”
There also is dilation and extraction or partial-birth abortion, in which the baby is mostly delivered before a trochar or sharp tube is inserted into the back of the baby’s neck in order to kill him or her.
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 on partial-birth abortion, and some states have enacted laws protecting pain-capable unborn babies from abortion.
The Catholic Anchor asked the Department of Health and Social Services why Alaska abortion practitioners are allowed to mark “other” when it comes to abortion method. In an email, the department noted that a state law requires the abortionist’s reporting form to be “substantially similar” to a federal form which has an “other” category.
According to Alaska’s report, there were three abortions reportedly done because of the baby’s “congenital anomaly.”
The abortionists’ reporting form lists chromosomal anomaly, neural tube defect, heart anomaly, ventral wall defect and “other.” It’s not clear how many abortions are being performed for what “other” anomalies that are routinely remedied before and after birth.
In response to a question about whether that means all the rest of the abortions performed — including those paid for by state Medicaid — were so-called “elective” abortions, the Department of Health and Social Services responded, “not necessarily.”
In 547 cases, the reported method of payment was state Medicaid funds. But in a large number of cases — 248 — the payment method was “other/ not stated.”
In response to Catholic Anchor questions, the Department of Health and Social Services noted that because the federal reporting form doesn’t require method of payment information, the state form doesn’t require it. The department said that “despite not being required by law, the department added this information to the Alaska form in an attempt to collect payment information.”
ENFORCING THE LAW
Abortion practitioners are not being penalized for not stating information or checking “other” boxes. When asked about recourse for incomplete reports, the state said that “it is unknown” if the abortionist could complete any returned, incomplete forms. The state said that since the reports come without identifying information about the clients, it could be difficult for abortion practitioners to match a returned report with the correct client. They added that some of the information on the form comes from the client, not the provider.