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Minn. Health Department reports abortion decline

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By CHRIS WILLIAMS

Associated Press Writer

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The number of abortions performed in Minnesota in 2008 fell to the lowest level since the 1970s, and marked the second straight year of declines, the state Health Department reported Wednesday.

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The annual report said 12,948 abortions were performed in Minnesota last year, down about 6 percent from 13,843 in 2007. There were 14,065 abortions in 2006.

Despite a spike in 2006, both the total number of abortions and the abortion rate per 1,000 women of childbearing age have been on a steady decline since 1980. The 2008 total is the lowest since the 10,565 abortions reported in 1975.

Wendy Hellerstedt, a professor at the University of Minnesota’s School of Public Health who studies reproductive issues, said the declines may be explained by state policy changes in the past few years that deter abortions.

For example, she said, Minnesota now requires the notification of parents before minors can get an abortion. In addition, she said, all women now must receive state-specified counseling that discourages abortion, and they must observe a 24-hour waiting period.

"There has been an escalation of policies that limit access," Hellerstedt said.

Carol Hajicek, of the Health Department’s statistics center, said the department gathers and reports abortion data, but doesn’t try to give reasons for the numbers.

Among the women and girls who gave a reason for wanting an abortion, nearly 9,400 said they didn’t want children at that time. More than 4,000 cited economic reasons. Many women gave multiple reasons for their choice.

The report says most of the women seeking abortions in Minnesota were unmarried and in their 20s. Nearly two-thirds of them said they were not using birth control when they became pregnant.

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The Health Department must report annually the number of abortions in Minnesota to the Legislature. This is the tenth such report.

Kathi Di Nicola, a spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, said in a statement that "the overall decline in abortion in nearly every category is positive news."

Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life credited the declines to the Positive Alternatives grant program approved by the Legislature in 2005 to encourage unexpectedly pregnant women to bear their children.

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