By Chris Gast, Right to Life of Michigan Education Coordinator

This week, both the pro-abortion Guttmacher Institute and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services released updates on abortion statistics, and both reports are not good for the unborn.

Abortions up in America

The story of abortion in America has been in a long-term decline following a sharp rise after Roe v. Wade was decided. 2017 saw the fewest number of estimated abortions in America since 1973, according to estimates from Guttmacher. Guttmacher polls abortion businesses directly, which captures numbers from states with pro-abortion governments that refuse to report abortion statistics.

However, in 2020, that decline appears to be over. Abortions in America increased 8% from 2017, with 930,160 estimated abortions in 2020. The abortion rate increased 7% to 14.4 abortions for every 1,000 women of reproductive age. For every 1,000 births in 2020, there were 206 abortions.

The leading pro-abortion states all had large increases since 2017: Illinois (25%), California (16%), and New York (5%). However, many other larger states without governments overly hostile to unborn children saw increases as well, including Michigan. Some states saw large decreases: Louisiana (-26%), Connecticut (-6%), and Massachusetts (-8%).

Some states saw wild fluctuations, for example, Missouri saw a 96% decrease in abortions performed in the state! However, those results are due to prolife laws and abortion businesses being shut down; some women traveled to other states for abortions. The Guttmacher numbers capture where the abortions were performed, not which states the women live in.

Abortions up in Michigan

Abortions increased again in Michigan in 2021, with 30,074 reported to the Department of Health and Human Services. It was a 1.4% increase from 2020, but it means the 2020 COVID abortion surge wasn’t a one-year fluke.

What drove these increases?

The national data available isn’t nearly as good as what we get in Michigan, but we do know that use of the abortion pill has skyrocketed everywhere in America. Contrary to some urban legends, abortion reports do count abortions using the abortion pill, RU-486.

Both in Michigan and nationally, abortion pills are now the most common form of abortions. 51% of abortions in Michigan in 2021 were done via medication, versus 35% in 2017.

Pill abortions are sold to women as an easier and less intimidating option. However, it’s the abortion businesses that benefit the most, not having to perform surgeries and deal with post-abortion clean-up and care. The women are at home or work, bleeding profusely, feeling ill, and passing their child—often in the toilet.

Looking back at the 2017 numbers in Michigan for a comparison, some other 2021 numbers stand out:

  • Teen abortions declined 7%. Abortions for women ages 30 and older increased 28%. The median age of a woman having an abortion in Michigan is around 27.
  • Abortions in Wayne County and the city of Detroit increased 14% and 17% respectively.
  • Abortions on Black women have increased 19%, while abortions on White women declined 10%. The abortion rate for Black women in 2021 was 7 times higher than White women (as well as women of other races or Hispanic heritage).
  • The source of referral to the abortion businesses remains mostly self-referrals (86% of women searching out the facilities on their own). However, the percentage of abortion referrals from family and friends nearly doubled from 6% to 11%.

Besides the abortion pill use, most states saw large abortion increases in 2020, likely due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Economic disruptions have driven abortion increases in the past, and 2021 certainly qualifies as disruptive. However, the long-term decline in abortions continued through the 2009 recession.

At least in Michigan, we can see two other major trends playing out year after year: more racial disparities in abortion numbers, and the average age of women having abortions continues a precipitous climb. Given half of all women having abortions in Michigan are 27 or older, the focus of pregnancy help efforts needs to continue transitioning from the stereotypical college woman having an unplanned pregnancy to older Black women in Metro Detroit who have already had children previously—and at least one abortion.

Abortion facility waiting room

To illustrate the demographics of abortion and the challenges of reaching women with pregnancy help options, let’s imagine a single abortion facility waiting room with 10 women in it. This waiting room is as statistically representative of the entire state as possible.

Please keep in mind these situations are meant to be broadly representative, which is difficult with only 10 stories representing the realities of more than 30,000 individuals. Please also keep in mind that survey data for reasons women have abortions exists, but we know from experience some things aren’t accurately represented on those surveys, like pressure and coercion to abort from significant others or family members.

Ashley – Ashley is 19 years old, Black, and lives in Detroit. She believes she is too young to be a mother. She’s 8 weeks along and wants the abortion pill to just get this over with quickly as possible.

Barbara – Barbara is 20 years old, Hispanic, and lives in Grand Rapids. She’s already a mother to one toddler and had an abortion just a year ago. She’s 17 weeks along but her boyfriend abandoned her last week. She’s having the initial appointment for a late-term dismemberment abortion.

Carol – Carol is 21 years old, White, and lives in East Tawas. She’s already had two abortions and believes she isn’t ready to be a mother or get married. She’s 7 weeks along and wants the abortion pill rather than having another surgical abortion, fearing of possible long-term side effects like infertility.

Dorothy – Dorothy is 24 years old, Black, and lives in Flint. She had an abortion when she was 17, but had a child when she was 22. She and her boyfriend believe they can’t afford a second child. She’s 8 weeks along and wants the abortion pill.

Elizabeth – Elizabeth is 27 years old, White, and lives in Trenton. She already has two children with two different fathers and believes she can’t afford another one. She’s 6 weeks along and is having a suction abortion.

Frances – Frances is 27 years old, Black, and lives in Detroit. She’s here for her fourth abortion after a series of failed relationships. She believes she isn’t ready to be a mother without being married. She’s 5 weeks along and using the abortion pill for the second time after two surgical abortions in her past.

Gloria – Gloria is 29 years old, Black, and lives in Troy. She already has four children, but is divorced. She believes she can’t handle a fifth child as a single mother. She’s 7 weeks along and wants the abortion pill so she doesn’t have to spend an entire day at the abortion facility waiting to have a surgical abortion and then being in recovery.

Helen – Helen is 30 years old, White, and lives in Cadillac. She already has three children, but never got married. She had several rough pregnancies with preeclampsia and has had terrible morning sickness every day with this pregnancy. She’s 10 weeks along and is here to have a suction abortion.

Isabella – Isabella is 32 years old, Asian, and lives in Sterling Heights. She and her husband already have one child, but don’t believe they have the time to successfully raise a second child. She’s 8 weeks along and wants the abortion pill.

Jennifer – Jennifer is 35, Black, and lives in Detroit. She is a single mom with two children, but had two abortions when she was in her early 20s. She didn’t really want to have another abortion, but she believes she can’t afford a third child and her boyfriend is pressuring her to have an abortion. She’s 12 weeks along and having a suction abortion.

2020 Abortion Report Analysis