- Associated Press - Sunday, June 7, 2015

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - The number of abortions performed annually in Iowa is declining, according to newly released data, but two opposing groups attribute the drop to different factors.

Between 2010 and 2013, the number of abortions in Iowa decreased from 5,399 to 4,423, according to data compiled by The Associated Press. That represents an 18.1 percent drop.

The AP compiled the data based on information from the Iowa Department of Public Health. The agency’s records include tracking surgical abortions and medically induced abortions.

Penny Dickey, chief clinical officer of Planned Parenthood of the Heartland in Iowa, said the decline is the result of better access and affordability to family planning services like birth control. She added that long-lasting contraception like IUDs and hormonal implants are also highly effective and more accessible to women than several years ago.

Jenifer Bowen, executive director of Iowa Right to Life, said the decline is linked to an uptick in privately funded pregnancy centers around the state that often offer counseling services to women on other options, including adoption and continuing the pregnancy. She also believes there is a correlation between the decline and grassroots efforts from volunteers who protest abortions outside clinics that provide such services. The use of advanced ultrasound technology that offers clearer pictures of the fetus may also play a role.

“It’s a combination,” she said. “I don’t think that there’s any one thing that anybody can point to and say, ‘This. This is why.’”

The AP compiled data on abortion rates from health departments in 45 U.S. states that keep such information on a comprehensive basis. It shows the annual number of abortions has declined substantially since 2010 in most states. The biggest decreases are almost equal between states that have enacted anti-abortion laws during that span and other states that have shunned such measures while protecting abortion rights.

In recent years, state lawmakers in Iowa have introduced bills that would restrict abortion access. That includes legislation that would ban most abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, though the measure never advanced. The Iowa Supreme Court is expected to issue a ruling this year that could determine the legality of telemedicine abortions. The practice allows doctors to dispense abortion-inducing pills to patients in rural clinics via a secure video setup.

Dickey said despite attempts to restrict abortion access, women who have made the decision to have an abortion will find a way to have the procedure, traveling long distances if needed. She noted some women already have children, and it’s a powerful factor in determining their choice.

“They will do what they need to do to protect their families, and if that means, ‘I can’t afford, I can’t emotionally, physically, mentally, financially have a child right now,’ then they will do what’s possible in order to secure the basic needs of themselves and their families,” she said.

Both Dickey and Bowen say the data for Iowa encourages the groups to continue their respective work. Bowen said her organization plans to keep lobbying for legislation that she says expands protection for the fetus. For Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, it’s supporting legislation that expands family planning services.

“The single best thing that lawmakers could do to help prevent the need for abortions is to expand access to information, education and services for pregnancy prevention,” she said.

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