Abortion Reporting: Florida (2017)

Tessa Longbons  

Florida’s annual abortion report for 2017 shows that the abortion count in the state has fallen from the year before. The Sunshine State is one of the first to make abortion statistics publicly available each year, demonstrating once again the ability of public officials to provide timelier data than is common among other states and the federal government. On the Agency for Health Care Administration website, Florida maintains a running year-to-date total of abortion in the state with data through March 2018 already posted.

 

Changes in Florida Abortions, 2016-2017

 

*Information on Florida’s chemical abortion totals, state abortion rate, and Planned Parenthood’s Florida market share is not publicly available.

 

Abortion Totals and Trends

 

Abortions in Florida continue to decrease. There were 68,935 abortions performed in Florida in 2017, a decline of a little over one percent from 2016, when 69,770 abortions were performed in the state. Since 1998, the first abortion report published on the health department website, total abortions have dropped by 16 percent. Florida does not report the state abortion rate, but the Charlotte Lozier Institute estimates that the rate has declined slightly, from 18.5 abortions per 1,000 resident women of childbearing age in 2016 to 18.3 in 2017 (Fig. 2).

 

State Report Summary

 

Florida reports abortions by trimester. The vast majority of abortions – 94 percent – were performed during the first trimester, or at 11 weeks of gestation or earlier. There were 4,438 abortions (6 percent) performed in the second trimester, or 12 to 23 weeks of gestation. One abortion was performed in the third trimester, which lasts from 24 weeks of gestation to birth, although Florida’s report does not indicate when in the third trimester this abortion occurred. Abortions in Florida are prohibited in the third trimester unless the life or health of the mother is at risk. According to the report, the reason provided for this late-term abortion was life endangerment to the mother.

 

Over 55,000 of the abortions performed in Florida in 2017, or 80 percent, were elective, with an additional 16 percent cited as being performed for social or economic reasons and another one percent (911 abortions) performed due to the mother’s emotional or psychological health. By contrast, 700 abortions, one percent, were performed because of the mother’s physical health.  A total of 141 abortions, or 0.2 percent, were performed because the mother’s life was at risk, including the abortion that took place in the third trimester. Eighty-six abortions occurred because the pregnancy was a result of rape, and five were performed because the pregnancy resulted from incest. There were 623 abortions performed because the baby had an abnormality.

 

Born Alive Infants

 

Eleven babies were born alive during abortions in 2017 – by far the most reported since Florida enacted the Born Alive Infants Protection Act in 2013 to protect the rights of children who survive abortion. Since 2014, the first year after the law was enacted, 15 babies total have been reported as born during abortions in Florida. Florida law protects these babies, giving them the same rights and privileges as other infants. When a baby survives an abortion in Florida, medical personnel must take all reasonable steps to preserve the baby’s life and must admit the baby to a hospital. The law also requires any employee of a hospital, physician’s office, or abortion center with knowledge of a baby being born alive during an abortion to report this to the state department of health. However, Florida’s abortion reports do not indicate what is done to save these babies’ lives or how long they survive once they are born. The report does not describe the gestational ages of the children that survived abortion or which types of abortion procedures were attempted. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that nationwide, between 2003 and 2014 at least 143 babies died after being born alive during botched abortions, though the CDC also states this could be an underestimation.

 

State Ranking

 

Florida reports data points that many other states do not, such as women’s reasons for abortion and whether any babies survive abortion. However, the state collects, but does not report, basic demographic information including the mother’s state and county of residence, age, race, marital status, level of education, and previous pregnancies. Florida also neglects to report the types of abortion procedures used or whether any complications occurred, even though it collects this information. Additionally, Florida reports no data on its parental notification or informed consent processes. While Florida’s reports are released more quickly than those of most other states – the state updates reports of abortion occurrence throughout the year – Florida does not clearly indicate when those reports are finalized. In 2016, a Charlotte Lozier Institute study on state abortion reporting ranked Florida as 40th out of the 50 states, Washington, D.C., and New York City. The Sunshine State could improve its reporting by publishing more of the information it collects.

 

Fig. 1

 

 

Fig. 2

  1. Total abortions for 2008 were taken from the CDC’s abortion surveillance report. Florida’s Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) took charge of Florida abortion reporting during the second half of 2008. AHCA provided CLI with abortion statistics for the latter half of 2008, and the Department of Health (DOH) provided provisional statistics for the first half of 2008. Because no abortion report is available from Florida for the entirety of 2008 and the sum of the AHCA and DOH abortion totals are less than the total provided by the CDC, the CDC’s number has been used.
  2. Florida does not report the state abortion rate. Rates were calculated by the Charlotte Lozier Institute using population estimates from the United States Census Bureau. The rates were calculated using the following formula: (total number of abortions performed in Florida ÷ number of resident women ages 15-44) x 1,000. The rate for 2017 used population estimates for 2016, the most recent year available.

 

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