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Abortion in Michigan: State bucks trend; rate increases as access dwindles

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Michigan’s access to abortions has decreased since 1998, while the profile of people seeking the procedure has changed dramatically over the years. (Rachel Goodhew / Shutterstock.com)
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In the Upper Peninsula, the sole provider is in Marquette County, while the only clinics in the northern Lower Peninsula are in Grand Traverse and Emmet counties.

Access issues gained far more prominence overnight Monday following the release of a leaked opinion indicating that the Supreme Court is poised to overturn Roe v. Wade and allow states to regulate abortion.

Should Roe be overturned, a 1931 state law would likely take effect in Michigan that makes performing an abortion a felony — but Attorney General Dana Nessel, a Democrat, and seven Democratic prosecutors have said they won’t enforce the law.

The prosecutors are in counties that performed the vast majority of abortions: Wayne, Oakland, Washtenaw, Genesee, Ingham, Kalamazoo and Marquette. The counties comprise  44.2 percent of the state’s population but had 62 percent of nearly 30,000 in abortions in 2020.

Another Democratic prosecutor, John McColgan of Saginaw County, has not indicated what he would do should Roe be overturned, while five counties where abortion is available have Republican prosecutors: Macomb, Kent, Jackson, Grand Traverse and Emmet.

In 2020, Emmet County’s prosecutor, James Linderman, used campaign literature that touted his anti-abortion stance

The prosecutors in Kent and Jackson counties, Christopher Becker and Jerard Jarzynka, are fighting a lawsuit filed by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to nullify Michigan’s 1931 anti-abortion law, and Macomb County’s Pete Lucido has said he would prosecute abortion cases if Roe were overturned. 

Grand Traverse Prosecutor Noelle Moeggenberg hasn’t publicly said what she would do.

Statewide, Wayne County had the highest rate of abortions — 33 abortions per every 1,000 women ages 15-44. That includes Detroit, where the rate is 52 per 1,000 women; more than twice the rate in the suburban portion of the county, which had 20.4 abortions per 1,000 women ages 15-44.

The lowest rates, with fewer than 5 per 1,000, are in the rural areas, most of which do not have an abortion provider. 

The highest rate in a county without a provider is St. Clair, at 10 per 1,000; it borders Macomb County where providers do operate. The rate in Macomb is 18 abortions per 1,000 women ages 15-44; it is 15.8 statewide.

Abortions rising

Abortion is rising faster in Michigan than the nation.

In 2019, Michigan’s abortion rate — 14.6 abortions per 1,000 women ages 15-44 — was the fifth highest in the United States. A decade earlier, in 2009, Michigan’s rate was the 26th highest in the nation.

Michigan’s abortions began increasing in 2009 after steadily declining since 1982. There were nearly 30,000 abortions in Michigan in 2020, a 33 percent increase since 2009, when there were 23,357.

Nationwide, abortions reached their lowest level in 2017, but increased by small percentages in subsequent years.

 

Fewer teen abortions

The age of women getting abortions has changed dramatically in the past 40 years.  In 1985, teenagers accounted for nearly a third of all abortions, 30.7 percent, and those over 30 accounted for 15.8 percent.

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By 2020, teens accounted for just 8.3 percent of all abortions and those over 30 accounted for 32 percent.

 

In 1985, unmarried women comprised 80 percent of abortion in Michigans, the same as in 2020.

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But 67 percent of Michigan women, in 2020, had already had a child at the time of their abortion, up from 48 percent in 1985. (Nationwide, the rate is closer to 60 percent.)

The percent of women who had at least one previous abortion was up, however, in 2020, at 49 percent, up from 41 percent in 1985.

 

Racial and ethnic breakdown

In the aftermath of the Supreme Court leak, abortion rights advocates have said that low-income women would be most affected if abortion is outlawed. 

Michigan does not track the income of women who seek an abortion but it does track their race and ethnicity.

In 2020, African-American women comprised just over half of all abortions, 53 percent; whites comprise 36.7 percent. African Americans comprise 14 percent of the population but are far more likely to be from a lower socioeconomic household. 

In Michigan, 27.4 percent of African Americans live below the poverty line, compared to 10.9 percent of whites. The median household income of African Americans is $36,561, or just 58 percent of the $63,287 median household income for whites.

Hispanics comprised 3.4 percent of abortions in 2020, according to the state. In Michigan, they make up 5.6 percent of the total population.

Nationwide, there are similar racial disparities in abortion rates, according to federal figures.

Women in every county in Michigan sought an abortion in 2020, even though clinics are only open in 13 of the state’s 83 counties, state records show.

Michigan has 27 providers, down from 70 in 22 counties in 1998, and the procedure is unavailable in large swaths of land north of Saginaw.

 

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