June 5, 2015 | Posted in Abortion | By

This week the Arkansas Department of Health released its reports on abortions performed in the state during 2014. We’ve already written about some of the statistics from this year’s reports.

According to the reports, for the first time since 2006 the number of abortions performed in Arkansas went up last year, with 4,273 abortions performed in 2014. That’s an increase of 541 abortions–unfortunate, but not entirely unexpected; despite being on a downward trend, abortion totals fluctuate from year to year.

In reading the report, we noticed something interesting: The number of abortions performed on Arkansans last year (i.e. on women who reside in Arkansas) increased only slightly–from 3,205 in 2013 to 3,332 in 2014–while the number of abortions performed on women from out-of-state increased dramatically–from 527 in 2013 to 941 in 2014.

In other words, much of the increase in abortion in 2014 was due to women from other states obtaining abortions in Arkansas.

What’s more, as we looked at abortion data going back to the year 2000, we discovered that roughly 15% of the abortions performed in Arkansas were actually on women from out-of-state, and 1 in 5 women who had an abortion in Arkansas in 2014 was from out-of-state. Here is the data:

Year Total Abortions Arkansans Out-of-State % Arkansans % Other
2000                      5,501           4,548                   953 83% 17%
2001                      5,924           4,981                   943 84% 16%
2002                      5,316           4,511                   805 85% 15%
2003                      5,408           4,582                   826 85% 15%
2004                      4,644           3,835                   808 83% 17%
2005                      4,695           4,062                   633 87% 13%
2006                      4,988           4,292                   696 86% 14%
2007                      4,844           4,132                   712 85% 15%
2008                      4,789           4,054                   735 85% 15%
2009                      4,580           3,960                   620 86% 14%
2010                      4,532           3,937                   595 87% 13%
2011                      4,033           3,523                   510 87% 13%
2012                      3,782           3,361                   421 89% 11%
2013                      3,732           3,205                   527 86% 14%
2014                      4,273           3,332                   941 78% 22%
Total                   71,041        60,315             10,725 85% 15%

Abortion Trends Over Time

abortion-chart-1973-2014

Since reaching peak levels in the 1990’s, abortion in Arkansas has been on a downward trend. And while the numbers fluctuate from year to year, abortion in Arkansas has remained relatively low over the past decade.

Charting the number of abortions performed in Arkansas since 2000, a clear, downward trend is apparent:

abortion-chart-2000-2014

Not surprisingly, when we look at the number of abortions performed on Arkansans each year, the numbers follow the same downward trend:

abortion-chart-arkansans-2000-2014

However, the number of abortions performed on women who are not Arkansas residents has been on the rise since 2012:

abortion-chart-non-arkansans-2000-2014

In fact, in 2014 more than 1 in 5 abortions performed in Arkansas were on women from out-of-state. That’s the highest percentage since the Department of Health began publishing these statistics in 2000.

Looking at the Past Five Years

State 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 Total
Louisiana          11          14          14          14          24            77
Texas          24          28          21          25          44          142
Oklahoma       104          75          56          53          42          330
Missouri       152       110          84          87          57          490
Mississippi       112          87          92       122       217          630
Tennessee       169       174       138       207       542      1,230

Looking at reports from 2010 – 2014, we see women from many different states have had abortions in Arkansas. The top states on the list are Tennessee, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas, and Louisiana.

Comparing 2014 to 2013, we see the number of women from Louisiana, Texas, Mississippi, and Tennessee obtaining abortions in Arkansas has been on the rise, with Tennessee showing the sharpest increase.

abortion-chart-arkansas-bar-2010-2014

Overall, 13% of the abortions performed in Arkansas in 2014 were performed on women from Tennessee; another 9% were performed on women from other states; only 78% of the abortions performed in Arkansas in 2014 were actually performed on Arkansans.

No Simple Answer

Even though the number of abortions increased, 2014 was still the fourth-lowest year for abortion in Arkansas since 1978. What’s more, the number of abortions performed on women from Arkansas rose relatively little; the increase in abortion was largely the result of women from neighboring states obtaining abortions in Arkansas.

What’s clear is that women from other states–particularly Tennessee–came to Arkansas for abortions in 2014. What is not clear is why.

It’s not uncommon for the Health Department to note an occasional abortion in Arkansas on a woman who resides in a distant state; presumably these abortions are performed on women who are in Arkansas temporarily.

However, more than 900 women from neighboring states obtained abortions in Arkansas in 2014 alone. It seems unlikely they all were students or temporary workers living in Arkansas.

What’s more, a simple Google search reveals there are abortion clinics in Memphis–right on the Tennessee/Arkansas border–so it seems unlikely women in Tennessee are seeking abortions in Arkansas due to a lack of “access” in their state.

It also seems unlikely that abortion is somehow less restricted in Arkansas than in Tennessee. In 2014, Tennessee was working to overcome anti-life court decisions; a ruling by its state supreme court had determined the Tennessee Constitution guaranteed a “right” to an abortion–something Tennessee voters did not repeal until last November–and Tennessee’s laws concerning late term abortions were fairly comparable to those on the books in Arkansas.

The statistics in the Health Department’s Reports reveal Arkansas is an “exporter” of abortion to neighboring states, but they do not shed any light on why that is the case. That’s a question our state officials might seriously want to consider.

Jerry is the founder and president of Family Council. He began Family Council in 1989 after a successful effort to amend the Arkansas Constitution to prevent the use of public funds for abortions. He and his wife reside in Little Rock. They have four sons.