Kentucky’s 2017 abortion report, which the Kentucky Department for Public Health provided to the Charlotte Lozier Institute upon request in August 2018, shows that almost half of all abortions reported in the state were chemical abortions. Only one abortion clinic is currently operating in Kentucky.
Abortion Totals and Trends
Kentucky does not publish its abortion reports online. Instead, abortion statistics for 2017 were provided to the Charlotte Lozier Institute (CLI) in response to an open records request. The report sent to CLI shows that there were 3,202 abortions reported in Kentucky in 2017, a drop of three percent from the previous year but an increase of 0.4 percent from 2015, the earliest report provided to CLI (Fig. 1). In 2017, 47 percent of all abortions reported in Kentucky were chemical abortions. Chemical abortions increased by less than one percent from 2016 and by 23 percent from 2015. In 2017, Kentucky changed the way the state reports chemical abortions. Previously, chemical abortions were categorized as procedures of “unknown” type with the medication used to induce the abortion noted. In the 2017 report, chemical abortions are categorized as “Medical Non Surgical” and further specified by the method used to induce the abortion.1 Kentucky did not calculate the state abortion rate, but CLI estimates that the rate dropped slightly from the year before (Fig. 2).
State Report Summary
In 2017, 87 percent of the abortions reported in Kentucky were performed on state residents. Women from Indiana composed the largest group of nonresidents, making up eight percent of the total. Ten percent of the reported abortions were performed on females under the age of 20 (including 13 girls under the age of 15), 56 percent on women in their twenties, and 30 percent on women in their thirties. Four percent of the women were age 40 or older. According to the report, the youngest girl undergoing an abortion in Kentucky was 12, and the oldest woman was 48.
As in other states, African American women were disproportionately impacted by abortion. Twenty-eight percent of the abortions reported in Kentucky were performed on black women, even though African Americans make up only 10 percent of the state’s population of women of childbearing age. Sixty-one percent of Kentucky abortions were performed on white women, who represent 87 percent of the population of women of childbearing age. Ten percent of the abortions were performed on women of a different race.
A majority of abortions were performed on women who had attended college. More than half of the women – 53 percent – had between one and four years of college education, while eight percent had five years or more. Forty percent of the abortions were performed on women with 12 years of education or fewer. A large majority of women, 83 percent, were single, and 17 percent were married.
In Kentucky, abortion is prohibited at or after 20 weeks post-fertilization (approximately 22 weeks of gestation) unless a medical emergency threatens the life or a major bodily function of the mother. In 2017, more than a third of all abortions reported in Kentucky, 38 percent, were performed at six weeks of gestation. Just eight abortions occurred earlier than six weeks. Twenty-nine percent were performed between seven and eight weeks, 11 percent between nine and 10 weeks, and eight percent between 11 and 12 weeks of gestation. Six percent of the abortions reported in the state took place between 13 and 15 weeks of gestation in the second trimester. Another six percent were performed between 16 and 19 weeks. Two percent of abortions occurred from 20 to 21 weeks of gestation, halfway through pregnancy. There were eight abortions reported after the legal limit of 22 weeks of gestation. Five abortions were performed at 22 weeks and one at 23 weeks. Two abortions were performed in the third trimester at the very end of pregnancy: one at 35 weeks and one at 37 weeks of gestation, which doctors define as the cutoff line between premature birth and early-term birth. The report does not indicate why these late-term abortions were deemed necessary or if anything was done to preserve the babies’ lives.
In early 2018, Kentucky passed a law prohibiting the use of the dilation and evacuation abortion procedure, which is one of the most common methods used to perform later abortions. The American Civil Liberties Union sued, and the law was blocked by a court order. The lawsuit is pending in federal district court and a trial was held last November. The law remains unenforced while the suit is pending.
Abortion Facilities in Kentucky
All but 22 of the abortions reported in 2017 were performed at EMW Women’s Surgical Center in Louisville, now the state’s only abortion clinic. In 2016, Kentucky sued both EMW Women’s Surgical Center’s Lexington location and Planned Parenthood’s Louisville center for performing abortions without a license. After a protracted court battle, the Kentucky Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal from EMW Women’s Surgical Center and Planned Parenthood, forcing EMW’s Lexington center to close down in January of 2017 for failure to obtain a license. Planned Parenthood’s Louisville center no longer performs abortions, advertising abortion referrals only. Kentucky is one of six states with just one abortion center.
The remaining 22 abortions were performed by two hospitals in Kentucky: Norton Hospital and the University of Louisville each reported 11 abortions, up from three each the previous year.
In the Charlotte Lozier Institute’s 2016 study of state abortion reporting, Kentucky was ranked at 43rd place out of the 50 states, New York City, and the District of Columbia. Kentucky could include additional information on the reasons why abortions were permitted after the legal limit, as other states with similar laws do. Additionally, Kentucky could improve its reporting simply by making reports publicly available rather than requiring an open records request before releasing the reports to the public. Kentucky’s abortion reports contain valuable information on abortions performed in the state and publishing the reports online would make them more accessible to researchers and residents of Kentucky.
- Medical Non Surgical methods reported in 2017 include: Cytotec; Cytotec, cervical ripening balloon; Cytotec, Pitocin; Cytotec, Pitocin, cervical ripening balloon; Induction of pregnancy; Misoprostol; Pitocin; Potassium chloride and methotrexate; RU 486; Unknown. In 2017, more than 99 percent of the Medical Non Surgical abortions were RU 486 (mifepristone) abortions.
- Kentucky 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 Kentucky ÷ number of resident women ages 15-44) x 1,000.