The coronavirus pandemic has certainly had a profound impact on the provision of health care in the United States. Earlier this year, federal and state officials mandated closures of those health care providers they deemed as offering elective surgeries and “nonessential” medical care. These shutdown orders also affected the provision of abortion.
Some elected officials included abortion facilities in these shutdown mandates so that personal protective equipment (PPE) could be allocated to health care providers treating coronavirus patients. However, abortion facilities have litigated these orders and have been largely able to remain open during the past few months.
But has the coronavirus increased the U.S. abortion rate? Certainly the economic slowdown and the sharp increase in the U.S. unemployment rate have led to widespread economic hardship. Additionally, research has steadily indicated that a significant percentage of women seeking abortions do so for financial reasons.
Separate surveys conducted by the Guttmacher Institute in 1987 and 2004 both show that about 70% of women obtaining abortions cited financial issues as one of the reasons why they were seeking an abortion. Additionally, both surveys showed that about 20% of women seeking abortions cited economic pressures as the most important reason why they wanted to terminate their pregnancy.
Additionally, there exist data points that pertain to the current pandemic. An April CBSNews.com article found that some abortion facilities were seeing an increase in the number of women seeking abortions. The story reported that one abortion facility in Granite City, Illinois, indicated that their “show rate” for women who made abortion appointments increased from 50% to 85%. Also, a May ABCNews.com article found that many “abortion funds,” which use private donations to subsidize abortions, were seeing an increase in calls. Finally, an April 20 Live Action News article by Carole Novielli interviewed pro-life sidewalk counselors around the country. They provided varying reports about how the coronavirus was affecting the number of people entering abortion facilities.
Collectively, these stories provide some evidence that abortion rates are increasing. However, the data presented in these articles are either anecdotal or self-reported. The only hard data on the incidence of abortion comes from the state of Florida.
Florida’s Agency for Health Care Administration reported that between Jan. 1 and June 4, 2019, there were 26,903 abortions performed in the Sunshine State. During a similar time frame this year, 27,851 abortions took place — an increase of about 3.5%.
Now, there might be some inconsistencies with this data. For instance, it is possible that the reported 3.5% increase might be due to more timely data reporting by Florida abortion facilities. That said, a 3.5% increase in the number of abortions is still a figure that should trouble pro-lifers — especially considering the consistent long-term decline in the U.S. abortion rate.
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