Health
Left: Saul Loeb / AFP / Getty Images; right: Alex Wong / Getty Images

One-third of Detroit pregnancies end in abortion

Health officials blame the high rate on poverty and scarce access to affordable contraception

Nearly one-third of all pregnancies in Detroit end in abortion — triple the state rate — The Detroit News reported. Public health officials blame the high rate on rampant poverty and scarce access to affordable contraception.

The newspaper studied data from 2012 — the most recent figures available — and found that of the estimated 18,360 pregnancies in Detroit, 5,693 of them or 31 percent ended in abortion. Across Michigan, there were 22,699 abortions out of an estimated 160,219 pregnancies.

Considering the number of abortions in terms of the city’s population, and factoring in how many women were not pregnant at the time, the abortion rate for the city is 37.9 per 1,000 women ages 15 to 44, the newspaper said in a report published Thursday. That is a significant increase from the 2001 rate of 27.5 per 1,000.

"We’re seeing a picture that looks more like some third world country than someplace in the United States," Dr. Susan Schooley, chairwoman of the Department of Family Medicine at Henry Ford Hospital, told The Detroit News.

Studies have established a direct correlation between poverty and abortion. In some cases, poorer women — often minorities — are not able to afford the necessary contraception they need to prevent pregnancies. Studies have also found that women who sought an abortion and were denied it had a much higher chance of falling below the poverty line.

Abortion remains a bitterly debated issue across the U.S., which in 2011 had an abortion rate of 17 per 1,000 women. A recent study found abortion to be at its lowest level nationally in four decades, and abortion-rights proponents hope the Affordable Care Act will increase women’s access to necessary contraceptive care, thereby reducing the abortion rate even further.

Meanwhile, a wave of laws recently passed in a handful of states — which require abortion doctors to have admitting privileges at local hospitals — have led many abortion clinics to close. Louisiana passed a similar measure this week.

Utah was the first state to pass such a law, in 1998. In the last few years Texas, Kansas, North Dakota and Tennessee followed suit. Alabama, Mississippi and Wisconsin have also passed legislation that would require hospital admitting privileges for abortion-providing physicians, but those laws are tangled in legal red tape.

A federal district court is currently hearing arguments over Alabama’s law, and later this month a federal trial is set to begin to consider Wisconsin’s. Meanwhile, if a federal appeals court upholds Mississippi’s legislation, it could close the state’s sole abortion provider.

However, both the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) and the American Medical Association (PDF) have said surgical abortion procedures are safe and that hospital admitting privileges are not medically necessary. Fewer than 1 percent of cases have complications, with just 0.05 percent requiring hospital treatment, the groups said.

"Abortion procedures are among the safest medical procedures, but the earlier in a pregnancy it is performed, the safer it is," ACOG president Jeanne Conry said in a statement. "Restricting access will lead to dangerous delays for women."

Marisa Taylor contributed to this report.

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