The number of abortions performed in Missouri and on Missouri residents continues to decline, according to 2017 statistics from the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS).
The number of recorded abortions — defined as abortions performed in a facility in Missouri — decreased from 4,562 in 2016 to 3,903 in 2017, a 14.4 percent decline. The number of resident abortions — defined as abortions performed on Missouri residents regardless of where the abortion occurred — also decreased from 7,275 in 2016 to 6,790 in 2017, a 6.6 percent decline.
Pro-life leaders over the years have credited extensive pro-life laws in Missouri, a consistent presence in front of abortion clinics, as well as state-supported efforts to provide alternatives to abortions, including pregnancy resource centers and maternity homes, and wrap-around services that address both the needs of the mother and child.
“There’s not just one reason why fewer women are having abortions in Missouri,” said Deacon Sam Lee, a pro-life lobbyist with Campaign Life Missouri. “It’s a steady drum beat of pro-life activity by a variety of organizations that is making the difference. Everybody is playing a part — those who pray; those who witness and counsel at the (abortion) clinics; those who do the day in and day out work of providing services to pregnant women; those working to change the laws to promote a greater respect for human life. Everybody in their own way is working together. And you know what? That’s the way it should be.”
Abortions in Missouri and among Missouri residents have steadily declined in the decades that followed the 1973 Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision. By comparison, 1980 was a peak year for abortions, with 19,043 recorded abortions and 21,671 resident abortions.
Deacon Lee noted the increase in agencies providing alternatives to abortion. There are currently 71 pregnancy resource centers and 17 maternity homes in Missouri that participate in state tax credit programs. Additionally, Alternatives to Abortion funding has held steady in the past couple of years with almost $6.5 million budgeted each year by the state.
“Certainly the increased number of Alternatives to Abortion agencies is having an impact,” Deacon Lee said. “They are increasing services to women, they are seeing more women, and they are providing more collaborative help with other faith-based and non-profit organizations. These things are having a huge impact on a women’s decision to choose life rather than have an abortion.”
Since 2014, the state has had a 72-hour waiting period for women seeking an abortion. The passage of SB 5 during a special session in 2017 included a new provision which requires a physician to meet in person with their patients 72 hours in advance of the abortion.
Earlier this month, a federal appeals court overturned a lower court ruling that prohibited the DHSS from enforcing pro-life laws designed to protect the health and safety of women considering abortion. DHSS will now be able to enforce regulations requiring physicians who perform abortions to have hospital privileges, as well as enforce portions of Missouri’s ambulatory surgical center licensing laws for abortion facilities.
Abortion records are compiled from the Induced Termination of Pregnancy reports which are filed with the Department of Health and Senior Services by state law. The abortion system has been in place in Missouri continuously since 1975, although changes in data items and definitions have taken place over the years, according to the department.
Abortion is defined by statute (Missouri Revised Statute, Chapter 188) as the intentional destruction of life of an embryo or fetus in his or her mother’s womb or the intentional termination of pregnancy of a mother with an intention other than to increase the probability of a live birth or to remove a dead or dying unborn child.
Recorded abortions: Abortions performed at a facility in Missouri, regardless of the residence of the woman
Resident abortions: Abortions to Missouri residents regardless of where the abortion occurred.