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Poverty, Family Planning Cuts Tied to Rising Abortion Rate in Detroit

Poverty, Family Planning Cuts Tied to Rising Abortion Rate in Detroit

May 27, 2014 — An increase in Detroit's abortion rate since 2001 likely is tied to increased poverty and reduced access to contraception, according to city public health officials, the Detroit News reports.

Thirty-one percent of pregnancies in Detroit ended in abortion during 2012, the most recent year for which data are available, according to the Michigan Department of Community Health. By contrast, abortion rates in Michigan and nationwide are on the decline.

The city figures translate into an abortion rate of 37.9 abortions per 1,000 women ages 15 to 44, up from 27.5 per 1,000 women in 2001. The rate is three times greater than Michigan's statewide rate, which decreased from 12.6 abortions per 1,000 women to 11 per 1,000 women over the same time period.

Contributing Factors

Public funding for family planning has declined significantly in Michigan in recent years, from more than $5 million in 2006, to $692,300 in 2013, according to the state Department of Community Health.

According to the News, it is impossible to directly compare the abortion rate in Detroit with that of other cities because mandatory reporting of abortion statistics is not required in all states. However, experts noted that abortion rates tend to be higher in low-income urban areas, such as Detroit. For example, the city's abortion rate peaked in 2008, the same year the city went through the worst of the recession and increased cuts to social safety net programs.

Susan Schooley, chair of the Department of Family Medicine at Henry Ford Hospital in Michigan, said, "Both routine primary care and family planning-specific primary care are not available in Detroit," adding, "To the extent that a significant proportion of those (pregnancies) are unplanned, it leads to all these decision-making options of which abortion is one lousy choice."

Jay Berman, chief of gynecology at DMC Hutzel Hospital and division chief of gynecology at Wayne State University Medical School in Michigan, said increased insurance coverage through the Affordable Care Act (PL 111-148) would reduce cost barriers to contraception (Bouffard, Detroit News, 5/22).