Overall Abortion Numbers Down; Increase Among Black Teens in Franklin County

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Ohio health officials report the number of abortions performed in Ohio has dropped to a 31 year low. About 30,860 were performed last year – the fewest since the State Department of Health starting keeping track in 1976.But while the overall number of abortions are down, one segment of the population – teenage African Americans – is seeing a rise in the number of abortions.

Typically, in Franklin county, white women have more abortions than black women – simply because white women make up a greater percentage of the population. Here’s the startling math. In Franklin County teenage white females out number teenage black females by nearly three to one. But last year, African American teenagers had more abortions than white teens. This is the first time in ten years this has happened.

In Franklin County in 2007, while white teens saw a 19 percent decline in abortions, black teens saw a six-and-a-half percent increase.

The New York-based Guttmacher Institute tracks national and state abortion statistics. Guttmacher researcher Rachel Jones said abortions are declining in all racial and ethnic groups, but not as fast for African-Americans. Why? She’s not sure. But Jones suspects income may play a role in the disparity. And she said it’s more difficult for African American women to find health care. “We know that just for women of color, in general, even when they’re not necessarily poor, that gaining access to health care services can be a little more difficult. Even if they’re not poor they might not work in jobs that provide them with access to private health insurance, and if they’re not aware that there are others ways to access health care or reproductive health care then they might not be able to take advantages of those services,” she said. And Jones said it’s not just that African-Americans have more abortions than white women, she said they have more unintended pregnancies.

Planned Parenthood of Central Ohio CEO Lisa Perks said she could not pinpoint a specific reason for why the abortion rate was higher among Franklin County African-American teens. But Perks said women of color who seek abortions generally can not afford birth control, like The Pill. She said cultural or linguistic barriers can further frustrate access to birth control, and many of these women, even if they are given birth control, have a hard time using it as prescribed. All of these can lead to unintended pregnancies.

“If they are prescribed the pill and they don’t take it every day, you know their life stresses sometimes causes them to lack compliance with certain birth control methods. So unstable life situations, frequent life changes,” Perks said.

Day Gardner is founder of the National Black Pro-Life Union in Washington. Gardner credits the racial disparity to easy access to abortion clinics, not income level. In the Los Angeles Times Gardner said, “It doesn’t have as much to do with poverty as that the abortion facilities are there, ingrained in the neighborhoods.”

Planned Parenthood of Central Ohio has one facility that performs abortions. It’s located on East Main Street near James Road. Other abortion providers are located on East Broad Street and Indianola and Cleveland Avenues. All of these facilities are in or near neighborhoods with large African American populations.

But Planned Parenthood’s Lisa perks said Gardner’s easy access theory is wrong. Perks said it’s harder to get an abortion in Central Ohio. She points out that several Central Ohio abortion clinics have closed in recent years. And she said state laws, like the 24-hour waiting period, make having an abortion more difficult.

“I’m concerned that perhaps the number of abortions, while I want to make them also safe, legal and rare, are declining. I’m worried it’s an access issue. That, you know, there’s a lot of restrictions in Ohio and women are having trouble finding providers that offer the services and that they may be having trouble accessing the exact opposite of the woman you quoted,” Perks said.

Perks said the Planned Parenthood abortion facility site was chosen because of its central location, parking lot and its close proximity to the interstate. She said she thinks many providers often choose a site because of its visibility and access to a major expressway.