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The Journal Gazette

Monday, September 25, 2017 1:00 am

Indiana abortion rate continues to decline

Down 8.5% amid closing of facilities

NIKI KELLY | The Journal Gazette

INDIANAPOLIS – Indiana's abortion rate has dropped eight straight years – and by 33 percent since 2008 – a trend hastened by the closure of several abortion clinics, including one in Fort Wayne

But 289 girls and women from Allen County still received abortions in 2016 at one of Indiana's six remaining clinics, according to the latest state data.

Abortions statewide dropped 8.5 percent last year compared with 2015.

In raw numbers, Indiana women had 3,542 fewer abortions in 2016 than in 2008. Indiana's all-time high number of abortions was 16,505 in 1980, and the total was 7,277 in 2016.

“I think women are more aware of what the abortion procedure is and I think they are making different choices,” said Cathie Humbarger, executive director of Allen County Right to Life. “Women who have made an abortion decision telling their stories has been significant.”

Allen County hasn't been home to an abortion facility since late 2013 when Dr. Ulrich Klopfer closed his facility because of not having a required backup doctor with admitting privileges. The Indiana Medical Licensing Board suspended Klopfer's license in 2016 for failing to exercise reasonable care and violating several notice and documentation requirements. His clinics in Gary and South Bend also closed.

Now northeast Indiana residents have to drive about two hours to reach an Indiana abortion clinic. The six remaining ones are in Indianapolis, Bloomington, Lafayette and Merrillville.

Four of those are run by Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky. The Lafayette branch offers only medication-induced abortions using prescription drugs.

Christie Gillespie, president and CEO of the Indiana-Kentucky organization, said reduced access to abortion providers is a factor in the decline. And she attributed some of the drop to better availability of birth control, including the use of long-acting implants.

Lawmakers have passed numerous bills tightening regulations on abortions and providers. Some have been blocked by federal courts, but others have gone into effect.

“It's unfortunate since abortion is part of reproductive health care,” Gillespie said. “It's a safe and legal procedure.”

Indiana Right to Life recently celebrated the downward trend, focusing on several facilities providing options to abortion that have opened in the state including in Fort Wayne.

“It's a huge drop and we're very encouraged,” said Mike Fichter, Indiana Right to Life president and CEO.

He also gave former Gov. Mike Pence – now vice president – and the Republican Indiana House and Senate credit.

He said the state's informed consent brochure specifically shows a fetus at various stages of pregnancy and talks about the risks and complications of abortion.

“While one life lost is one too many, it's encouraging to see the number of abortions significantly drop again and trend downward as we strive to give a voice to the unborn,” House Speaker Brian Bosma said. “There's still more work to be done and we remain committed to supporting strong pro-life policies that promote health and empower women to choose life.”

One significant newer requirement is that an abortion provider must offer the expectant mother the opportunity to view a fetal ultrasound and hear the heart tone of the fetus if it is audible.

Both Humbarger and Fichter say the availability and clarity of ultrasounds have made a big difference.

“You can clearly see that's a little baby,” Humbarger said.

It's difficult to pinpoint whether pregnancies are down as a whole or women are simply making different choices. The Indiana State Department of Health shows that in addition to the number of abortions being down, so is the termination rate among Indiana residents of childbearing age.

In 2012, there were 6.4 terminations per 1,000 women, and now that rate is 5.2.

The number of births has varied over the years. In 2007, there were more than 89,000 births. That dropped to 83,115 in 2013 but has begun rising again, according to Indiana vital statistics.

Fichter said Planned Parenthood increased its number of abortions by 1.3 percent in 2016. But Gillespie said the increase was a natural result of fewer providers around the state.

nkelly@jg.net