Fewer teens and Illinois residents overall had abortions in Illinois in 2016, as the number of abortions performed statewide fell to the lowest level since the procedure was legalized in 1973.
The total number of abortions performed in Illinois fell for a fourth consecutive year in 2016, according to data recently released by the Illinois Department of Public Health. All Chicago-area counties showed year-over-year declines, as well as a precipitous drop from the start of the decade. The state health department is required by law to compile abortion statistics, which it releases a year in arrears.
The 38,382 abortions performed in Illinois in 2016 were the fewest in the state since 1973. The 2016 total was down 8.2 percent from the 2010 mark of 41,859. It also was down 11.2 percent from 2012, the peak for the decade.
McHenry County women had 360 abortions in 2016, only one below the 2015 total. However, abortion was down 25 percent from 2010, when the number was 483.
Anti-abortion groups such as Chicago-based Illinois Right to Life see the numbers as a sign that efforts to provide support and counseling to women with unwanted pregnancies are working.
“We definitely see that as a great thing and moving in the right direction,” said Regina D’Amico, a spokeswoman for Illinois Right to Life. “What’s really interesting is that the greatest decline that we saw is among high school girls moving into college.”
Meanwhile, pro-abortion-rights supporters at Planned Parenthood said the decline is a result of women having better access to birth control.
“Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, women have been able to access birth control with no copay, allowing more women to get the method that’s right for them,” Julie Lynn, spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood of Illinois, said in an email. “For many women, that means getting long-acting methods like IUDs and implants, some long-acting methods can last up to 12 years.”
The data also show a considerable drop in abortion among teens since the start of the decade. In 2010, women 19 and younger had 6,588 abortions. In 2016, that number was more than halved to 3,111, data show.
D’Amico credited Illinois’ Parental Notice of Abortion Act, which requires health care providers to notify a parent if a girl 17 or younger is seeking an abortion, with the decline. In 2014, the first full year the law was in effect, abortions among teens fell 22 percent, data show.
As for why more out-of-state residents are seeking abortions in Illinois, both sides agreed that they were fleeing more restrictive rules on abortions in neighboring states.
In terms of concern for the future, pro-abortion-rights supporters fear that rollbacks in access to birth control will cause an increase in abortion services.
“The Trump administration is determined to roll back the clock on a number of reproductive health care issues, and access to no copay birth control is at risk,” Lynn said. “Following the 2016 election, Planned Parenthood of Illinois saw a 460 percent increase in IUDs. This shows that patients are making decisions about their lives before someone in Washington was going to make those decisions for them.”
Meanwhile, abortion opponents are concerned a new state law requiring public employee and Medicaid health insurance plans to cover abortion services.
Although supporters say it only makes sense for health plans to cover abortion and birth control, regardless if they are publicly or privately funded, those opposed say it is an unfair use of public funds that will drastically increase the number of abortions performed in Illinois.
Many blame Gov. Bruce Rauner for signing the bill in September.
“Gov. Rauner, he betrayed us, and he signed this law,” D’Amico said. “We expect it will increase abortions by 12,000 a year. We are preparing to see that.”
With the law not taking effect until 2018 and abortion statistics not released until a year later, it could be years before the law’s true effect is measured.