Abortion Reporting: Colorado (2019)

Tessa Longbons  

Colorado was one of the first states to release abortion statistics for 2019, publishing its 2019 abortion report on the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment website in May 2020. The report shows little change in Colorado abortion totals between 2018 and 2019.

 

Changes in Colorado Abortions, 2018-2019

The report does not include information on Planned Parenthood’s Colorado abortion market share.

 

Abortion Totals and Trends

 

There were 9,002 abortions reported in Colorado in 2019, a slight increase from the 8,975 reported the previous year (Fig. 1). Chemical abortions, however, increased by seven percent from 4,629 in 2018 to 4,939 in 2019. In 2019, chemical abortions composed 55 percent of all abortions reported in Colorado. The Charlotte Lozier Institute estimates that Colorado’s 2019 abortion rate was 7.7 abortions per 1,000 women of childbearing age, essentially unchanged from the year before (Fig. 2). To protect confidentiality, Colorado’s report suppresses numbers smaller than three.

 

State Report Summary

 

In 2019, 89 percent of Colorado abortions were performed on Colorado residents, a slightly higher percentage than the year before. The number of abortions performed on Colorado residents increased by 1.3 percent from 2018, while abortions performed on nonresidents fell by eight percent. Four percent of Colorado abortions were performed on women from Wyoming, and 1.5 percent each were performed on women from South Dakota and New Mexico.

 

Nine percent of Colorado abortions were performed on girls under the age of 20, including three percent on minor girls under 18. Twenty-nine percent were obtained by women ages 20 to 24 and 28 percent by women ages 25 to 29. Nineteen percent of the abortions were on women ages 30 to 34, while 11 percent were performed on women ages 35 to 39. Four percent of the abortions were on women age 40 or older.

 

More than half of Colorado abortions (55 percent) were on non-Hispanic white women. Three percent were on White Hispanic women. Eight percent of the abortions were performed on black women, and four percent were on women of other races. However, a full 29 percent of the abortions reported in Colorado were on women whose races were not reported, so the true distribution of abortions by race may be different.

 

Seventy-three percent of the abortions reported in 2019 were on unmarried women. Seventeen percent were on married women, and nine percent were performed on women whose marital status was unreported. Well over half, 59 percent, had no living children, while 18 percent had one child and 24 percent had two or more children. Seventy percent reported no prior abortions. Twenty-one percent had one previous abortion, and nine percent had more than one.

 

Fifty-five percent of the abortions performed in Colorado in 2019 were chemical abortions. Thirty-four percent were performed using suction curettage, and three percent were dilation and evacuation procedures. The number of intrauterine instillation abortions and hysterectomy or hysterotomy abortions was suppressed. Two percent of the abortions were performed using other methods; the type of procedure was not reported for six percent of the abortions reported in Colorado.

 

Seventy-two percent of Colorado abortions occurred at eight weeks of gestation or earlier. Thirteen percent were performed between nine and 10 weeks, dropping to six percent from 11 to 12 weeks and four percent between 13 and 15 weeks. Three percent occurred between 16 and 20 weeks of gestation, and 1.9 percent, or 171 abortions, were performed at 21 weeks of gestation or later. This was a smaller percentage than the previous year, when 3.6 percent of the abortions reported in Colorado were performed at 21 weeks or later. However, the percentage of late-term abortions fluctuates from year to year and correlates with the number of women traveling to Colorado from out of state for abortions; when fewer nonresident women obtain abortions in Colorado, as in 2019, fewer late-term abortions tend to be reported. The vast majority of Colorado abortions (98 percent) were performed in a clinic or doctor’s office, compared to just two percent that were performed in hospitals.

 

Ballot Initiative to Limit Late-Term Abortion

 

Currently, Colorado is one of a few states that place no restrictions on how late in pregnancy an abortion may be performed, but a ballot initiative is underway to limit abortion at 22 weeks of gestation. If the ballot initiative succeeds, abortions after 22 weeks of gestation would only be allowed if the mother’s life is in danger and the situation cannot be resolved by an early delivery.

 

Although the percentage of abortions reported at or after 21 weeks of gestation varies from year to year, Colorado consistently reports a high volume of late-term abortions, and as CLI has previously noted, a portion of these are very late abortions performed in the ninth month of pregnancy. Boulder, Colorado is home to the abortion center of Dr. Warren Hern, who specializes in extremely late-term abortions and sees women from all over the country.

 

Colorado does not report the exact number of abortions performed after 22 weeks of gestation, instead combining all abortions performed at or after 21 weeks of gestation into one reporting category. However, since 2003, the earliest year of data available to CLI, there have been almost 4,000 abortions at or after 21 weeks of gestation reported in Colorado.

 

State Ranking

 

In 2016, Colorado was ranked as the 35th best state in CLI’s survey of the quality of abortion reporting across the country. Colorado has improved its reporting since then, now making annual reports available online. However, Colorado could take steps to further strengthen its abortion reporting. Due to the high number of late-term abortions reported in the state, Colorado could report gestational age with more precision. Colorado could also collect and report women’s reasons for obtaining abortions, particularly late-term abortions. Additionally, Colorado could instruct abortion providers to report any complications, especially since the risk of abortion mortality rises exponentially with increasing gestation.

 

  1. Rates were calculated by CLI using population estimates from the United States Census Bureau. The rates were calculated using the following formula: (total number of abortions performed in Colorado ÷ number of resident women ages 15-44) x 1,000. Rates may differ slightly from previous CLI articles due to revised population estimates.

 

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