Number of Abortions Drops in Montana

There were 1,842 abortions in Montana in 2013, compared with 2,160 in 2010

By Alison Noon, Associated Press

HELENA – The number of abortions performed in Montana has dropped each year since 2009, but the decline doesn’t appear to be caused by the string of anti-abortion bills proposed by Republican lawmakers in recent years.

There were 1,842 abortions in Montana in 2013, the latest year for which information was available, compared with 2,160 in 2010, according to information from the Montana Department of Public Health and Safety.

In that same period, Republican lawmakers in the state proposed twice as many anti-abortion measures in each of the 2011, 2013 and 2015 legislative sessions than any session the decade before.

But the courts and the last two Democratic governors have largely blocked those measures. Just this year, Gov. Steve Bullock vetoed bills that called for fetal anesthesia, a ban on the use of webcams to provide abortion counseling and a mandate to create health insurance plans that do not cover abortions.

So what is behind the decline in abortions? Martha Stahl, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Montana, pointed to increased access to advanced birth-control methods. In-arm injections and intrauterine devices have become more affordable for a growing number of the organization’s 13,000 Montana patients, she said.

“About three years ago, it really started to pick up,” Stahl said. “We’ve seen triple-digit growth on some of these methods.”

But University of California, Davis sociology professor Carole Joffe said it’s difficult to distinguish independent causes for the decline. Factors could range from social stigmas surrounding abortions to more attention paid to using birth control for economic reasons during the Great Recession.

Plus, even if the anti-abortion legislation doesn’t become law, the bills could have an effect on how the public views abortion, she said.

“These bills are, for lack of a better term, cultural documents,” Joffe said. “They are statements of what anti-abortion activists would like to become new normals.”

Montana GOP Executive Director Chris Shipp said the party is encouraged by the drop in abortions and will continue to back anti-abortion measures.

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