The number of abortions performed in Minnesota dropped by three percent last year, according to new data from the state’s Department of Health. Abortion opponents say that’s a consequence of anti-abortion laws that were passed in the state six years ago — but it’s more likely due to expanded sexual education and access to birth control.
The number of Minnesota teens receiving abortions has been cut in half over the last five years. Abortion opponents have been heralding the trend as a vindication of the state’s six-year-old parental notification laws. “More and more women are turning away from abortion and are choosing to give birth to their babies,” said Bill Poehler, a spokesman for the pro-life group Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life, of the new numbers.
Actually, Minnesota’s teen birth rate plummeted by more than 30 percent between 2007 and 2011. And its teen pregnancy rate is already the eight-lowest in the nation — and it dropped even more, 19 percent, between 2007 and 2010. Those figures continue to drop despite a rise in the number of sexually active Minnesota teens. According to a survey of students, about half of Minnesota high school seniors have had sexual intercourse.
Public health advocates attribute that success to more comprehensive education about safe sex and contraception. For instance, programs like Planned Parenthood’s “Reach One, Teach One” initiative (which encourages teens to spread information they’ve learned about contraception onto their friends) expanded their scope by 7,000 people in the last year, according to the Minnesota Star Tribune.
That’s in line with national trends that have shown expanding teens’ access to birth control directly contributes to lower teen birth rates. States that provide teens with more comprehensive sexual education have lower rates of teen pregnancies, as do the ones with more expansive preventative health care services. Obamacare’s requirement that preventative birth control be provided to women without a co-pay — and the U.S. Food and Drug Administation’s (FDA) policy change making emergency contraception available to all women over-the-counter — may drive down the number of teen pregnancies in Minnesota even further.