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Abortion in Alaska: 1,923 in 2006

What is the leading cause of human death in Alaska? Abortion, assuming that you believe as I do that human life in some sense begins at conception. According to the 2006 Alaska Induced Termination of Pregnancy annual report, there were 1,923 abortions (Induced Terminations of Pregnancy). By contrast, Cancer (Malignant Neoplasms), the official #1 cause of death in Alaska for 2006, killed 777 people.  Nearly two and half times more human beings were aborted in Alaska than died from cancer. Whether or not you believe in the full personhood of the unborn, I hope this number startles you. I think it represents a lot of suffering for mothers, children and families alike.

Except for whether the abortion is being done due to detecting a congenital anomaly (i.e. Down’s Syndrome, etc), the State of Alaska does not track reasons for abortions. In 2006, just one baby was aborted due to a congenital anomaly out of the 1,923 abortions performed.

Alaska does collect information on age and marital status of the mother, along with method of payment (!) and whether the mother has either aborted or given birth to other children prior to the current abortion. Here are a few selected statistics out of the 2006 report:

  • In Alaska, 59.6 percent of women who obtained an induced termination in 2006 reported they had no previous induced terminations. One of every seven women (14.8 percent) reported that they had two or more previous induced terminations.
  • Women age 15 to 17 accounted for 6.3 percent of all induced terminations in Alaska during 2006, a decrease from 6.5 percent in 2005.
  • In Alaska, 79.7 percent (excluding unknown responses) of women who obtained an induced termination in 2006 were unmarried. In the U.S., the most recent information shows 82.1 percent of women who obtained an induced termination were unmarried.
  • In 2006, 55.2 percent of women who obtained an induced termination in Alaska reported they had one or more previous live births. Nationally, 59.8 percent of U.S. women who received an induced termination in 2003 reported they had one or more previous live births.
  • More than nine of every 10 (94.0 percent) of induced terminations in Alaska were performed at 12 weeks or less gestational age. In 2003, 88.2 percent of induced terminations performed in the U.S. involved pregnancies of 12 weeks or less gestational age.

I’d like to close by quoting the data issues section of Alaska’s abortion report. It shows themes we will encounter again at the national and international levels:

Reporting Issues

The information in this report is based on induced termination of pregnancy reports received by the Bureau of Vital Statistics as of January 24th, 2007. A copy of the form used to report induced termination of pregnancies is located in Appendix B. Definitions of the terms used in this report are located in Appendix A. In this report, the term induced termination of pregnancy is used synonymously with induced termination.

In Alaska, reports of induced terminations of pregnancy are mandated by AS 18.50.245. Hospitals, clinics, or other institutions where an induced termination is performed are required to submit a report to the Bureau. The report cannot contain the name of the patient, but must contain information similar to the United States Standard Report of Induced Termination of Pregnancy, as published by the National Center for Health Statistics. Reports of induced terminations are strictly confidential and must be destroyed after preparing the annual report.

Alaska Statutes also require that any reports produced from induced termination of pregnancy forms may only be presented in aggregate form so that specific individuals may not be identified. Furthermore, the report may not identify or provide information that can be used to identify the name of the physician who performed the induced termination, the name of the facility where the induced termination occurred, or the name of the municipality or community in which the induced termination occurred. Because of the reporting guidelines outlined in state statutes, induced termination statistics by borough or census area are not available for publication.

This report contains information on induced terminations that occurred in Alaska. In the past several years over 200 Alaska women on average obtained induced terminations out of state. For example, 234 Alaska women obtained induced terminations in Washington State during 20053. It is unknown how many Alaska women obtained induced terminations in states other than Washington. Since the out of state occurrence data is incomplete, it is not included in this report.
Pregnancy rates are based on the total number of live births, induced terminations, and fetal deaths per 1,000 women of childbearing age. Currently, population estimates for 2006 are unavailable, so pregnancy rates cannot be calculated. Additionally, birth data for 2006 is preliminary, since data for Alaska residents who gave birth out of state is incomplete. The induced termination information for 2006, however, is final. Information on pregnancy rates, induced termination rates, and induced termination ratios is posted on the Bureau’s web site; http://www.vitalrecords.alaska.gov.

In 2005, Alaska law and regulations were amended to change the reporting requirements for induced terminations of pregnancy and to add a section relating to informed consent when conducting induced terminations. The changes to state law requires the Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS) to maintain a web site containing information on fetal development, induced termination, pregnancy, and family planning. The web site also has resources associated with pregnancy-related social and health services in Alaska. The informed consent web site is located at www.hss.state.ak.us/dph/wcfh/informedconsent/default.htm.

Second, the Bureau of Vital Statistics is required to monitor whether the unidentified patient requested and received a written copy of the information required to be maintained on the Internet. The regulations took effect midnight August 21, 2005

 

Next Sunday I plan to write about abortion statistics for the entire country, including an explanation why the actual number is higher than the reported number.

Sources:

Induced Termination of Pregnancy Annual Report, 2006 (Alaska Dept of Health and Social Services) – http://www.hss.state.ak.us/dph/bvs/PDFs/itop/2006_ITOP_Report.pdf

Top Ten Leading Causes of Death in Alaska (Dept of Health and Social Services) – http://www.hss.state.ak.us/dph/bvs/death_statistics/Leading_Causes_Census/frame.html

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