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Abortion by the numbers: How Arizona compares with the rest of the country

Planned Parenthood Arizona become one of few abortion providers in Arizona offering abortion care Aug. 29 as it resumed services at its Tucson facility.

The organization had paused all abortion services across the state after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June.

Since that landmark decision, abortion laws in Arizona have been unclear. The state’s Republican attorney general wants to enforce a near-total ban that dates back to Arizona’s territorial days. But Planned Parenthood is pushing back. The issue is caught up in court now. And a superior court judge will give an opinion in that case in late September.

Meanwhile, election season is drawing closer and abortion is making its way into debates up and down the Arizona ballot.

Abortion providers in Arizona still face legal uncertainty as they await a Superior Court decision on whether a near-total abortion ban can take effect. Meanwhile, election season approaches, and abortion is being debated up and down the Arizona ballot. But what are the facts about abortion in our state? 

How common is abortion in Arizona?

The Arizona Department of Health Services is required by state law to track a lot of data around abortion. The department’s  most recent report is for the year 2020. That year, there were 13,186 abortions in the state. About half were performed surgically, and half were done by medication.

The number of abortions has hovered around 13,000 per year for about a decade. That means there are about 172 abortions happening for every 1,000 live births in the state.

In the early 2000s, that rate was lower in Arizona, but the rate increased following the economic recession starting in 2008.

But Arizona’s abortion-to-live births rate is still a bit lower than the national average. The  Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports, nationwide, there are about 195 abortions per 1,000 births. Rates vary widely state-to-state. 

Who typically seeks abortions in Arizona?

Arizona's data suggests many abortion seekers in the state are single mothers. About 85% of people who got abortions in 2020 were unmarried, and most — almost 60% — already had children. About one in every six Arizona women seeking an abortion reported having three or more children.

About 64% percent of Arizonans who had abortions in 2020 had never had an abortion before.

Black, Hispanic, and Asian women in Arizona sought abortions at higher rates relative to their population than White women. About 18 Black Arizona women had abortions for every 1,000 Black women between the ages of 15 and 44 in the state. For Hispanic women, it was about 10 per 1,000. The rate for Asian Arizonans was nine per 1,000, and for White, non-Hispanic Arizonans, it was about seven per 1,000. 

These trends are each fairly consistent with nationwide statistics. 

How old are most Arizona abortion seekers? How common are teen pregnancies?

Teen pregnancies and abortions among adolescents have decreased significantly nationwide over the past several years. The CDC reports from 2010 to 2019, abortion rates fell 60% among Americans younger than 15 and fell 50% among those aged 15 to 19. In Arizona in 2020, less than 10% of abortion patients were under the age of 20.

The majority of abortion seekers in Arizona in 2020 — almost 60% — were in the 20 and 29 age group.

When in a pregnancy are most Arizona abortions performed?

In 2020, the majority of abortions in Arizona — about 64% — were performed in the first eight weeks of pregnancy. 

Lawmakers in Arizona this year passed a bill that would ban abortions after 15 weeks of gestation. Abortions beyond 15 weeks are rare in the state. Less than 5% of abortions in 2020 happened after that 15 week mark.

Why do Arizonans say they get abortions?

In the state's 2020 abortion report, about a quarter of abortion seekers declined to specify a reason for ending their pregnancy. Among those who did respond, there are a wide variety of reasons listed. Personal and economic factors appear to play the largest role. 

Some of the issues that come up in political debates around abortion do happen, but they aren’t as common as you might think. Of the thousands of people who had abortions in 2020 Arizona, fewer than 100 people cited domestic violence or sexual assault as their primary reason for wanting to end their pregnancy. The health of the fetus or mother was cited about 700 times.

The most common response, cited over 9,000 times, was that the abortion was elective. Some of the other reasons listed include financial instability or personal readiness.

Dr. DeShawn Taylor is one of just a handful of abortion providers in the state. She told KJZZ News many of her patients are making considerations about their career or education.

“This narrative that continues to be pushed that these are young, promiscuous, ill-informed people who are being taken advantage of or don’t understand what they want for themselves is not the correct narrative," Taylor said. "These are adults who are making decisions about their lives and their futures.”

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Katherine Davis-Young is a senior field correspondent. She has produced work for NPR, New England Public Radio, Southern California Public Radio, PRI's The World, Washington Post, Reuters and more.She has a master’s degree in radio journalism from the USC Annenberg School of Journalism.She lives in central Phoenix with her husband, two daughters, and ill-behaved cat and dog. Her side-passions include photography, crosswords and hot sauce.