Montana’s 2021 vital statistics report, which contains the state’s abortion data, was published on the website of the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services in July 2023. The report shows that Montana abortions increased in 2021.
Statistics and Changes in Montana Abortions, 2020-2021
The report does not include information on Planned Parenthood’s Montana abortion market share.
Abortion Totals and Trends
In 2021, there were 1,798 abortions reported in Montana, an increase of seven percent from the previous year. Chemical abortions increased by 20 percent from 2020, and constituted 73 percent of the Montana total in 2021 (Fig. 1). The Charlotte Lozier Institute (CLI) estimates that Montana’s abortion rate was 8.8 abortions per 1,000 women ages 15 to 44, a jump of four percent from 2020 (Fig. 2).1 As of August 2023, 37 states have released 2021 abortion statistics, and 27 states reported that abortions had increased.
State Report Summary
Eighty-six percent of Montana abortions reported in 2021 were performed on state residents. Over half the abortions were obtained by women in their twenties, with 30 percent on women ages 20 to 24 and 26 percent on women ages 25 to 29. Twenty-nine percent of the abortions were performed on women ages 30 to 39. Four percent of Montana abortions were performed on women ages 40 and above, while 11 percent were on girls ages 19 and younger.
A majority of Montana abortions were obtained by white women (84 percent), while 11 percent were obtained by American Indian/Alaska Native women and five percent by women of other races. Montana has one of the largest percentages of abortions on Native women.
Half the abortions reported in Montana were performed on women who hadn’t previously given birth, 21 percent on women who had one previous live birth, and 29 percent on women with two or more previous live births. Forty-eight percent of the abortions were performed on women with no prior abortions, while 35 percent were on women with one prior abortion and 17 percent on women with more than one.
Just under three-quarters of Montana abortions were chemical (73 percent), and 27 percent were surgical. Seventy-six percent of Montana abortions occurred at eight weeks of gestation (approximately four weeks post-fertilization) or earlier. Eighteen percent were performed between nine and 13 weeks, and three percent were reported from 14 to 15 weeks. One percent were performed between 16 and 17 weeks of gestation, and 13 abortions (0.7 percent) occurred between 18 and 20 weeks. The precise number of abortions performed after 21 weeks of gestation was suppressed for being less than five. Seven abortions were performed at unknown gestational ages.
On April 26, 2021, Governor Greg Gianforte signed a 20-week gestational bill intended to protect pain-capable unborn children from abortion. However, the law was blocked on September 30, 2021, two days before it was set to go into effect. The injunction was upheld in October 2021 and again by the Montana Supreme Court in August 2022. Because of a state Supreme Court decision from 1999, Armstrong v. State, laws to protect children from abortion at gestational points before “viability” are almost impossible to enforce in Montana, as the court ruled that the Montana Constitution’s right to privacy includes a right to abortion. Consequently, abortion remains legal until viability in the state.
In May 2023, Governor Gianforte signed a series of pro-life bills into law. The first package of bills dealt with taxpayer funding of abortion, protecting the lives of abortion survivors, requiring the licensing of abortion facilities, and creating an adoption tax credit as well as a child tax credit. Importantly, this package of bills contained a provision clarifying that the Montana Constitution’s right to privacy does not include the right to an abortion. This direct challenge to Armstrong could trigger a review of the law by the Supreme Court of Montana, potentially overturning the Armstrong decision.
The second package of bills contained provisions limiting abortion at 24 weeks gestation, prohibiting dilation and evacuation (also known as dismemberment) abortions, requiring that ultrasounds be performed before all abortions in the state, and preventing taxpayer funding of abortion in the state by restricting Medicaid coverage. Different provisions of these two packages are being challenged in court, and some have been blocked, including the 24-week gestational protection and the prohibition of the dilation and evacuation procedure.
In 2016, CLI examined abortion reporting in each state, and Montana’s reporting was tied at 23rd best. Montana could improve its reporting by stating whether any babies in the state survived attempted abortions, as CLI has previously recommended. Montana could also incorporate additional abortion statistics into its vital statistics reports, including information on the facilities where abortions occur and the level of education of women who obtain abortions in the state, data which it collects but does not include in its annual report. Lastly, Montana could report on any complications that women experienced during and after abortions.
- National rates were calculated by the Guttmacher Institute. Montana rates were calculated by CLI using the following formula: (total number of abortions performed in Montana ÷ number of resident women ages 15-44 [based on most recent population estimates]) x 1,000. Rates may differ slightly from previous CLI articles due to revised population estimates. Population estimates were obtained from CDC WONDER. Estimates for 2005-2009 are intercensal estimates of the July 1 resident population. Estimates for 2010-2019 are Vintage 2020 postcensal estimates of the July 1 resident population. Estimates for 2020-2021 are Vintage 2021 postcensal estimates of the July 1 resident population. Population estimates were produced by the U.S. Census Bureau and the National Center for Health Statistics.