Broward News

Abortions Are Down in Florida, But Not As Much As in Other States

Florida's abortion rates dropped ten percent between 2010 and 2014, though the drop rates of other states' has been more significant. The Associated Press collected annual numbers from health departments of 45 states — California, Maryland, New Hampshire, New Jersey and Wyoming don't compile numbers — and found that about 72,100 abortions were performed in Florida in 2014. That's a 9.7 percent drop from 2010, the AP found.

This is significant for Florida, since lawmakers passed a bill in April that would require a woman to wait 24 hours before being able to undergo an abortion. The bill, which is expected to signed into law by Gov. Rick Scott soon, would not only require a woman to wait 24 hours but would also require her to make two doctor's visits within that time frame. 

"Inherent in this bill is the notion that women can't make up their minds on their own," Florida Association of Planned Parenthood Affiliates Executive Director Laura Goodhue said to New Times

The abortion rate drop in Florida is minor compared to Arkansas, Ohio, Oklahoma, Missouri and Indiana, who saw rates dip by over 15 percent in the same timeframe. Across the board, abortions have gone down since 2010, though it's not clear if this has to do with more stringent laws passing. A lot of the lower rates are coming from states don't have laws that make getting an abortion more difficult, according to the report. 

Yet opponents of the 24-waiting period bill say the law is going to severely restrict women from getting the procedure done.

"In the last four years, there have been over 30 bills filed that would restrict a woman's health," Goodhue says, pointing to state law makers'  constant drive to put restrictive abortion laws in place.

The ability for states to enact such laws began in 1992, when the  U.S. Supreme Court upheld a 24-hour waiting period law enacted in Pennsylvania. This became a foothold for other states to enact their own versions of the law.

In 2011, for example, South Dakota became the first state to pass a law requiring women to wait 72 hours before accessing abortion services. 

It's not clear if the new Florida law, which is supposed to go into effect in July,  will have any further impact on the rate drop. The law will require a woman to make one trip to a clinic for legally required counseling before coming back 24 hours later for the procedure.

Opponents of the law say it will discourage women from going through with the procedure, especially low-income women, due to the multiple visits and extra costs it will take. Many women, they say, will have to take days off of work and pay travel expenses to visit a clinic to go through the required steps.

According to Elizabeth Nash of the Guttmacher Institute, the rate drop might be due to women having more access to long-term birth control measures. Obamacare also gives women more access to free birth control, as well.

Goodhue says that Planned Parenthood has seen an uptick of women taking advantage of Planned Parenthood's facilities to get birth control services.

“Birth control and sex education are the most important factors in reducing unintended pregnancy and the need for abortion," says Goodhue. "We believe the decrease in abortion has more to do with the expansion of access to birth control and increased use of the most reliable methods of birth control than laws that restrict access to safe and legal abortion."
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Chris Joseph
Contact: Chris Joseph