Ohio abortion rate hits record low

Ohio abortion rates have gone down for the 10th straight year. / flequi (Flickr)

The number of abortions reported in Ohio has decreased for a 10th straight year, dropping to the lowest level since record-keeping started in 1976, according to new data from the state Department of Health.

The annual report released Thursday says 28,123 pregnancies were terminated in 2010. That's about 600 fewer abortions than were reported the previous year. The number of reported Ohio abortions has dropped each year since 2000, when there were more than 37,000.

Doctors are required to inform the state's health department about induced abortions using confidential reports.

The report doesn't speculate on reasons for the decline, though groups on each side of the issue offered their own observations.

"Moms are being protected, more babies are alive today and we can all agree that this is good public policy," said Michael Gonidakis, executive director of the anti-abortion group Ohio Right to Life.

Kellie Copeland, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio, said she hoped the numbers had gone down because women had better access to birth control and not that they were being denied access to "safe, legal abortions that they want."

"If it's because unintended pregnancies are going down, that's great news," Copeland said. "But the report doesn't really give me that information."

The new data showed more than three-fourths of the women having abortions last year were never married, and nearly two-thirds of them already had at least one living child.

State lawmakers have recently taken up a handful of measures that seek to place restrictions on abortion.

Earlier this week, the state Senate approved a bill that contains new requirements before a minor can be allowed to have an abortion without her parents agreeing to it. Under the bill, a judge considering whether to let a girl bypass the state's parental consent requirement would have to ask if she understands the physical and emotional impacts of having an abortion. The judge also must ask the girl if she was coached on how to answer such questions.

In July, Gov. John Kasich signed a law limiting access to abortion if a fetus could survive outside the womb. The measure requires a doctor to test a fetus' viability before performing an abortion after 20 weeks into pregnancy, and bans the procedure if there is a positive result. There is no exception for the health or life of the mother, though a doctor could use those reasons as a defense if prosecuted.

A bill that would impose the strictest abortion restrictions in the nation also cleared the Ohio House in late June, though its prospects in the Senate aren't clear. That legislation would ban abortions after the first detectable fetal heartbeat, which can occur as early as six weeks into pregnancy.

Do you think abortion rates are going down because of better access to contraceptives and education, or because of Ohio laws that make it more difficult to get one? Sound off below...