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Michigan abortion rate reaches 30-year high; Minnesota’s falls to post-Roe low (or does it?)

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Sep 09, 2021 / By: Michael Spielman
Category: Abortion in the News

Michigan and Minnesota have much in common. Geographically, they’re roughly the same size and are located in roughly the same location. Only Wisconsin keeps them from being next-door neighbors. Both have Democrats in the governor's mansion; both are represented by Democrats in the Senate. Michigan entered the Union in 1837; Minnesota followed suit 21 years later, and they even sit next to each other in the alphabetical list of states. Both have four professional sports teams (not counting soccer or the WNBA), and their cost of living is almost the same—slightly above average. But while Minnesota’s population is 25% wealthier, Michigan’s is 55% larger. And when it comes to abortion, these two states are even further apart. In Minnesota, 12.6% of unborn children were reportedly killed by abortion in 2020 (excluding spontaneous miscarriage). In Michigan, it was more than 22%. This abortion disparity predated last year, but it seems to have exploded during our COVID-inspired panic. As a result, Michigan tallied its highest abortion total in almost 30 years while Minnesota’s reportedly fell to its lowest since Roe. The question is, why?

In terms of abortion policy, there’s not much that separates Minnesota from Michigan—and Michigan’s is actually the more restrictive of the two. Both have 24-hour waiting periods, and both require state-mandated counseling. Minnesota requires parental notification; Michigan requires parental consent—though this has little impact on abortion in the main. Only 2% of Minnesota’s 2020 abortions were performed on minors. Michigan prohibits the use of public funds or private insurance from paying for abortion—unless the mother’s life is in jeopardy. Minnesota does not. How, then, can Michigan’s abortion rate be almost double Minnesota’s? It’s almost certain that some of the disparity owes to demographic differences. In other words, a higher percentage of Michigan women fall into the highest-risk-for-abortion category. I’ve already mentioned one. The CDC doesn’t measure abortion frequency by income, but the Guttmacher Institute reported in 2017 that almost half of all U.S. abortions are performed on women living below the federal poverty line. Their most recent data comes from 2014, when a reported 19.7% of women aged 15-44 lived below the poverty line but accounted for 49.4% of all U.S. abortions. That means that women living in poverty are four times as likely to abort a pregnancy as women who aren’t—and in Michigan, the percentage of women living below the poverty line is 36% higher than in Minnesota. But since the abortion percentage in Michigan is 55% higher than in Minnesota, we can’t simply lay this discrepancy at the feet of poverty. And even if we back it up to 2019, when Michigan’s abortion percentage was “only” 43% higher than Minnesota’s, their differing poverty levels still can’t explain it.

Besides state of residence, the CDC’s annual abortion reports consistently reveal that abortion ratios vary widely across two other demographic lines: race and relationship-status. The abortion percentage for black women is at least three times that of white women. In Michigan, 53% of 2020 resident abortions were performed on black mothers—despite the fact that only 14% of Michigan’s population is black. Unmarried women—who account for 85% of abortions in Michigan and 84% in Minnesota—are almost seven times more likely to abort their pregnancy than those with a husband. Not surprisingly, in light of these numbers, Michigan has a higher percentage of black residents and a higher percentage of unmarried residents, but again, not enough to explain the dramatic abortion disparity. Based on the numbers, if Minnesota had the same percentage of black women as Michigan, their abortion total would be 19% higher—not 43% or 55%. If Minnesota had the same percentage of unmarried women, its abortion total would only increase by 6%. What if we combined these demographic markers—you ask—wealth, race, and marital status? That doesn’t work either. There’s too much overlap for these categories to be cleanly isolated. In some measure, they’re made up of the same women. Statistically speaking, women who live in poverty are disproportionally black and disproportionally unmarried. And that statement is true no matter how you order the variants. 

So far as I can tell, there is only one thing that can adequately account for the abortion disparity between Michigan and Minnesota. Can you guess what it is? The Guttmacher Institute reports that there are 21 abortion clinics in Michigan. That works out to one abortion clinic for every 105,833 women of reproductive age (15-44). But in Minnesota, there are only seven abortion clinics. That’s one clinic for every 182,929 women of reproductive age. Michigan has almost twice as many people as Minnesota, but it has three times as many abortion clinics. That means the number of abortion clinics per capita is 53% higher in Michigan than it is in Minnesota—mirroring almost exactly the reported difference in abortion percentages between the two states. Only 35% of Michigan women live in a county without an abortion facility. That number jumps to 61% in Minnesota. 

Wisconsin hasn’t reported their 2020 abortion totals yet, but we can look at their 2019 numbers for points of comparison. The size of Wisconsin’s population is almost identical to Minnesota, and yet its annual abortion totals are dramatically lower. Demographically, there’s no reason for this to be the case. The black population in the two states is virtually identical, and Minnesota is the wealthier of the two—with a higher percentage of married adults. Nevertheless, Wisconsin’s 2019 abortion percentage (9.3%) was more than a third lower than Minnesota’s and 74% lower than Michigan’s. While it’s true that Wisconsin’s abortion laws are slightly more restrictive than Minnesota’s or Michigan’s, I suspect the real impetus lies elsewhere. You’ve probably already guessed it. Wisconsin has three abortion clinics. That’s one clinic for every 431,962 women of reproductive age, and 70% of Wisconsin women live in a country with no abortion clinic. Obviously you can make the argument that the reason there are more abortion clinics in some states than others is because the demand for abortion is higher there, but that’s a hard premise to establish. On what basis do we say that there is dramatically more demand for abortion in Michigan than in Minnesota, or that there is dramatically more demand for abortion in Minnesota than in Wisconsin? 

I’ve already noted that differences in racial makeup, marriage rates, and poverty levels can’t account for the differences in abortion frequency between Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin. But are there other factors that might be increasing or decreasing the demand for abortion at the state level? Does a state's relative religiosity play a role—or the number of pregnancy care centers? What about birth control usage or the amount of welfare benefits a state offers? In theory, states that provide more social services should see fewer abortions, right? Or does the higher cost of living mitigate those advantages? Before we get to these questions, I should first note that Wisconsin had a lower pregnancy rate in 2019 than either Minnesota or Michigan. I’m not sure why this is, but it means that a lower percentage of women got pregnant in Wisconsin than in Michigan or Minnesota—and it doesn’t have to do with birth control, since a higher percentage of women use birth control in Minnesota than in Wisconsin (usage statistics are unavailable for Michigan). In Wisconsin, there were 12 pregnancies for every 1,000 people. In Michigan, there were 13.5 and in Minnesota it was 14.1. Wisconsin has a slightly older population than Minnesota, but Michigan has a slightly older population than Wisconsin. Wisconsin and Michigan both have the same birth rate (10.8), but that’s only because Michigan women are 74% more likely to have an abortion than Wisconsin women. The birth rate in Minnesota (11.7) is the highest of the lot, despite aborting a higher percentage of pregnancies than Wisconsin. This is only possible because Minnesota women got pregnant at a higher frequency than Wisconsin women. That being said, the pregnancy rate in Minnesota is 16% higher than in Wisconsin while the abortion rate is 29% higher. There has to be more in play. 

Between Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin, Michigan spends the least on welfare programs per capita. Minnesota spends the most—22% more than Wisconsin. And yet Wisconsin has far fewer abortions. According to Pew research, Michigan is the most religious state of the three. Half its citizens say religion is “very important,” and 34% reportedly go to church on a weekly basis. Wisconsin is the least religious of the three. Only 44% of its populace say religion is very important, and only 27% report to being weekly church-goers. And yet Wisconsin’s abortion rate is far lower than Michigan’s. It was the Guttmacher Institute who reported that as of 2017, 74% of sexually-active Minnesota women (who aren’t pregnant or trying to get pregnant) use birth control, compared to 71% in Wisconsin. So even though a higher percentage of Minnesota women use birth control, a higher percentage of Minnesota women also have abortions. Finally, according to Care Net, there are 62 pregnancy care centers in Minnesota, compared to “just” 47 in Wisconsin—and 74 in Michigan. Minnesota has the most pregnancy care centers per capita, but Wisconsin has the lowest abortion rate. 

Notice that for every category we’ve examined, the results have been contrary to common expectation. Wisconsin is less religious, spends less on social programs, makes less use of birth control, has fewer pregnancy care centers, and yet aborts a far lower percentage of pregnancies than either Minnesota or Michigan. What’s the difference? I’ll say again, they have fewer abortion clinics. Nothing else can plausibly explain the disparity, and it flies in the face of the narrative espoused by the abortion business. They constantly insist that a woman will have an abortion no matter what. Outlawing abortion, they argue, won’t curb abortion at all. It will simply make it more dangerous. Some go so far as to make the ridiculous claim that outlawing abortion will make it more common. None of this is remotely true, as evidenced by the data. Some women will still have abortions if it’s illegal. The vast majority will not. Just look at Wisconsin. 

Demographically, the abortion totals in Wisconsin and Minnesota should be about the same. If anything, Wisconsin should have more. And yet Wisconsin had almost 3,500 fewer abortions in 2019 than Minnesota—for the simple fact that it is less geographically convenient to have an abortion in Wisconsin than it is Minnesota. By all appearances, the number one predictor of abortion frequency is the number of clinics. It’s not poverty itself that drives so many women towards abortion; it’s the relative ease with which an abortion can be procured. In large measure, it is abortion clinics that create the demand, and vice versa—which may be why Wisconsin women have a lower pregnancy rate than women in Michigan or Minnesota. Isn’t it possible that in the absence of easy access to abortion, women in Wisconsin have simply had to be more careful about getting pregnant? And unless you’re of the opinion that going through an abortion is a positive experience, isn’t that a net gain? 

It’s true that some Wisconsin women leave the state to procure an abortion. For women living in the northwestern corner, it’s easier to get to the Twin Cities than it is to get to Madison or Milwaukee. As a result, 616 Wisconsin mothers had their unborn babies killed in Minnesota in 2019. But here again, 616 is a far cry from 3,500. Most of the women who would have aborted if there was a clinic nearby simply didn’t have an abortion. And how many Minnesota abortionists would still be willing to kill those 616 babies if they could be fined or jailed for doing so? By all appearances—and especially in light of what’s happening in Texas, we are heading for a post-Roe America, where the legality of abortion will again be decided by the states. If you think we live in two Americas now, just wait until that happens—along with all the migratory shifts it’s sure to prompt. Will people who are diametrically opposed to abortion be willing to keep living in a state that keeps allowing its “doctors” to poison or dismember the most innocent members of the human community? And will people who believe abortion is sacrosanct be willing to live without it?

Now back to 2020. So far as I can tell, no new abortion clinics opened last year in Michigan, and no clinics closed in Minnesota. So how is it that Minnesota’s abortion rate plummeted to a record low while Michigan’s skyrocketed? Yes, there was COVID, but didn’t that hit Michigan and Minnesota the same? Well, yes and no. Both states deemed abortion to be an essential service—allowing clinics to stay open throughout, and both states were named in President Trump’s much-maligned “Liberate” tweets, but it took one state a lot longer to actually do so. Michigan, under Governor Whitmer’s assurance that they were “[saving] thousands of lives,” locked down longer than any other state in the Union. Did they actually save thousands of lives? There’s no way to know with certainty, but we do know that only 15 states have had more COVID-related deaths per capita than Michigan. Its current rate of 218 deaths per 100,000 people is well ahead of both Minnesota (141) and Wisconsin (147). It’s even higher than South Carolina (215)—the state I call home—which hardly locked down at all. We also know that 2,330 more unborn children were killed in Michigan in 2020 than were killed in 2019. In an effort to save thousands of born lives, thousands of unborn lives were sacrificed. Literally. For 95% of all COVID deaths, there were contributing comorbidities, and only 3% of COVID victims were younger than 45. By contrast, only 2% of the babies aborted in Minnesota had any type of fetal anomaly—none of which contributed to their deaths, and no less than 100% of abortion victims had the whole of their lives still in front of them. 

In closing, I have some bad news. After weeks of digging, I was finally able to conclude that Minnesota’s reported abortion total is almost certainly false. Early in 2020, Whole Woman’s Health, the second-busiest abortion clinic in the state, switched to “fully virtual service” whereby they stopped seeing pregnant mothers in person and started sending them abortion drugs in the mail. Known as telemedicine abortions, Whole Woman’s Health clients can now kill their children without having to leave their home—or confer with anyone in person. As an aside, abortion was already the one surgery in all the world that didn’t require a physician’s referral—which is one of the reasons it wasn’t particularly slowed by the lockdowns. Plenty of surgeries didn’t happen in 2020 for the simple fact that routine checkups were missed and health problems went undetected. Not so with abortion. Despite the claim that abortion is a decision "between a woman, her family, her doctor, and her clergy,” this has never been the case. In Michigan, only 1% of 2020 abortions were referred by a physician, and only one tenth of one percent were referred by clergy. More than 89% were performed in a free-standing abortion clinic by someone whom the mother had likely never met before. In Minnesota, the percentage was even higher. Some years ago, medical abortion gave women the ability to kill and dispose of their unborn children from the confines of their own bathroom, and now you don’t even need to set foot in a hospital or clinic to get these fatal drugs. For whatever reason, the telemedicine abortions obtained through Whole Woman's Health didn’t show up in the Minnesota Department of Health’s 2020 report. They're supposed to, but they didn't. From April through December, you’ll find zeros in the monthly abortion totals for Whole Woman’s Health—and 137 abortions listed for the year, down from 2,114 in 2019. But according to their director, Whole Woman’s Health performed 1,266 abortions in 2020—which would bring the Minnesota state total up to 10,237. That’s a slight increase over 2019, not a historic decrease. Shutting down schools and businesses, it turns out, doesn’t reduce abortion at all. Quite the opposite. But shutting down abortion clinics most certainly does.

Michael Spielman is the founder and director of Abort73.com. His book, Love the Least (A Lot), is available as a free download. Abort73 is part of Loxafamosity Ministries, a 501c3, Christian education corporation. If you have been helped by the information available at Abort73.com, please consider making a donation.

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