The 2020 Michigan abortion report is no doubt very troubling. The 8.5% increase to 29,669 induced abortions from 27,339 reported in 2019 is the largest true increase since 1987 (not counting the 2013 report after the Prolife Omnibus Act forced several non-reporting abortion facilities to close).
Why the Increase?
As we will see in the results, the abortion increase is almost entirely in Black women.
The pandemic is one possible explanation, both in causing economic destruction, and increasing pessimism about the future. So far, 5 other states have released their abortion reports for 2020, and all showed increases, despite consistent decreases in previous years. The increases don’t seem to be race-specific, but seeing numbers from other states as they finish their 2020 reports will paint a clearer picture:
- Colorado increased 15% (equal increases in Whites and Blacks)
- Nebraska increased 15% (larger increase in Whites)
- Kansas increased 9% (larger increase in Blacks)
- Michigan increased 8.5%
- Florida increased 4% (race data not available)
- Texas decreased 5%, but Texas restricted abortions for a month during their lockdown; there was a 2% increase in months without legal restrictions (increase in Blacks)
The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services was able to give us the abortion numbers by week for 2019 and 2020, so that we could see if there was a noticeable trend due to the pandemic and/or lockdown. Based on the weekly data, the lockdown itself had no noticeable impact on abortions: either women being unable to access them, or more women deciding to have abortions.
The following graphs show the Michigan abortion data by month, compared to U.S. birth data. The birth data has been shifted by seven months back: 9 months to account for when fertilization roughly occurred, plus two months for the average point most abortions occur, around 8 weeks.
As you can see, all four lines have a slight trend of decreases as the year progresses (late summer and early fall are the most popular birth months). But it looks like the 2020 abortions stayed higher compared to the previous year. The pandemic took hold in late March. The 2020 abortion numbers increased only 1% from 2019 in January, February, and March together. After the pandemic, the abortion numbers increased 11% in the other 9 months compared to 2019.
Another possible explanation that could account for the race-specific increase in Michigan is the increasing negativity and divisiveness in national news commentary. Most abortions decisions are based on a woman’s subjective outlook of her future, and the overwhelming message to Black women in America in 2020 was that their lives—and the lives of their children—are constantly under assault.
We saw decreases in the abortion rate (the number of abortions per 1,000 women of reproductive age) over time in a couple notable areas:
- Washtenaw down 3.1 since 2013 (university town)
- Livingston down 2.5 since 2013
- Kalamazoo down 1.3 since 2013 (university town)
- Southwest Michigan as a whole has stayed consistently low
We saw abortion rate increases in a couple notable areas outside of Detroit, which we’ll address a moment:
- Marquette up 3.3 since 2013 (university town)
- Genesee up 3.9 since 2013 (increases began after the Flint water crisis)
- Small but sustained increases in West and Central Michigan
Numbers for women having abortions who already had a child continue to increase, up to 66.9% in 2020. These women represent a steep challenge, since they already understand what a pregnancy entails, and most have experienced a high-quality ultrasound appointment.
Black abortions continue a tragic and sustained increase. There were 11,087 abortions on White women in 2013, compared to 10,303 in 2020. The numbers for Black women were 12,729 in 2013 and 14,854 in 2020. Nationally, Black abortions have been declining—at a slower rate compared to Whites. Yet, in Michigan, Black abortions have been increasing.
The abortion rate in Detroit was up 19.5 since 2013, to 51.8 total. The 19.5 increase is higher than the total abortion rate of the entire state, 15.8 per 1,000 women.
Looking at the abortion rates by race and age, the Black abortion rate is astronomical in Michigan. The Black abortion rate is between 6 and 7 times as high as the White rate. The national non-Hispanic Black abortion rate was 21.2 in the 2018 CDC abortion report; Michigan is more than twice that, though a couple southern states have higher rates than us. Abortions would decrease 40% in Michigan if the Black abortion rate matched the White rate.
2020 featured the highest abortion ratio (abortions for every 1,000 births) since we ended tax-funded abortions, 259.9 in 2020 compared to 229.7 in 2013. That’s one out of every five viable pregnancies in Michigan ending in abortion.
Other Things to Note
Despite the large increases in 2020, teen abortions remain incredibly low. Abortion continues aging demographically, and we are up to 31.5% of the abortions in Michigan committed on women who are 31 and older.
One odd finding was abortion referral sources. Women reported their abortion referrals from friends or family increasing from 5.9% in 2019 to 10%. The increase was in every age group, and very strange for the Internet age. Is this because more friends and family following the news in 2020 told pregnant women it wasn’t worth having a child in these circumstances? Or just a coincidence?
It seems clear the pandemic increased abortions in Michigan, in other states, even in the United Kingdom. That’s no surprise, though some thought it might have gone the other way with social distancing leading to fewer pregnancies. Given the decreases in birth rates because of the pandemic, it’s many more women decided to have abortions in the face of a negative outlook on the future.
In Michigan, abortion continues to be trending even more towards Black women; such a small proportion of our population is now having a majority of the abortions. Much more time and effort for crisis pregnancy intervention and pregnancy help should be directed to them and depressed areas, particularly Detroit. Right to Life of Michigan has been moving in that direction for several years now.