116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
For the second year in a row, the number of abortions performed in Iowa rose from the year before.
Iowa had seen a steady decline in the number of medically and surgically induced abortions over the course of several years, but that trend has reversed since 2019.
The state saw 4,058 abortions performed in 2020, a 14 percent increase from the previous year, according to new data from the Iowa Department of Public Heath.
In 2019, 3,566 abortions were performed, which is an increase from the 2,849 procedures conducted in 2018, state data shows.
But for years leading up to 2019, the number of pregnancies terminated in the state had been dropping. The more than 2,800 abortions performed in 2018 was the lowest total reported since 2012, when 4,648 procedures were conducted, according to state data.
In 2006, 6,728 abortions were reported by the state health department.
Nationwide, the number of abortions fell by 19 percent between 2011 and 2017, according to the abortion rights research organization Guttmacher Institute.
Birthrates have also been declining statewide in recent years. The state health department reported a 11.9 birthrate per 1,000 population, a drop from the rate of 13.2 in 2009.
Those in favor of abortion rights say the increasing rates are a result of state policies that reduce access to contraceptives for women in Iowa.
The increasing trend does come following the 2017 decision to withdraw from a federally funded family planning program in favor of a state-run version that barred Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers from participation. The year after it launched, the state’s Family Planning Program saw an 85 percent drop in use of services, which included those that provided birth control and information on how to prevent pregnancy, according to IDPH.
Sally Pederson, a former Iowa lieutenant governor who served as executive director for the Iowa Initiative to Reduce Unintended Pregnancies, pointed to this policy as a driver of this trend. She said improving access to reliable contraception is a precursor to reducing abortions.
“When unintended pregnancies go up, abortions go up,” Pederson said.
Anti-abortion advocates at the Family Leader, on the other hand, said circumstances of the pandemic rendered the 2020 tally “virtually useless.” Officials with the conservative organization also said its harder to get accurate statistics with “chemical and telemedicine abortions” performed in Iowa.
“In the big picture, however, this is all the more reason that Iowa needs more reliable data and abortion reporting methods,” said Drew Zahn, communications director for the Family Leader.
In recent years, Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds and the Iowa Legislature, also controlled by the Republican party, have passed laws aimed at limiting abortions in Iowa.
Earlier this year, state lawmakers approved the first step in moving forward with a state constitutional amendment that would make clear the state does not recognize or grant the right to an abortion. If approved in the 2023 or 2024 Legislative session, the measure would be put to a vote before Iowans in the 2024 general election.
Other legislative efforts have also ended up in Iowa’s courts.
Most recently, the Iowa Supreme Court upheld a 2019 law that blocked Planned Parenthood from receiving federal funding to provide sex education curriculum in Iowa.
In other cases, abortion advocates have prevailed. Earlier this year a District Court judge struck down a law that required a 24-hour waiting period for women seeking an abortion, ruling the restriction unconstitutional.
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