Abortion Reporting: Rhode Island (2020)
Rhode Island’s 2020 abortion statistics have not yet been published by the state but are available in the latest abortion surveillance report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Statistics and Changes in Rhode Island Abortions, 2019-2020
The report does not include information on Planned Parenthood’s Rhode Island abortion market share.
Abortion Totals and Trends
Rhode Island’s state abortion reporting lags behind most other states. Rhode Island does not publish its reports online, and the latest report that was provided to the Charlotte Lozier Institute (CLI) is for 2016. However, Rhode Island has shared data with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to be included in the 2020 annual abortion surveillance report. The national report shows that between 2019 (2,099 abortions) and 2020 (2,611), abortions reported in Rhode Island increased by 24.4 percent and chemical abortion use increased by 49.1 percent (Fig. 1). CLI estimates that Rhode Island’s 2020 abortion rate was 12.6 abortions per 1,000 women ages 15 to 44, an increase of 25 percent (Fig.2). It is likely that the state underreports some abortions, though, as annual abortion estimates from the Guttmacher Institute’s survey to abortion centers indicate that 2,760 abortions occurred in 2020 in Rhode Island and that the abortion rate was 13.3 (Fig. 1 and 2).
State Report Summary
In 2020, 16 percent of the abortions reported in Rhode Island were performed on women from other states, including 14 percent on women from Massachusetts. Eighty-four percent of the abortions occurring in Rhode Island were performed on resident women.
Eight percent of Rhode Island abortions were performed on teenagers between the ages of 15 and 19, and 29 percent were on women in their early twenties. Another 29 percent of the abortions were obtained by women in their later twenties, and 30 percent were on women in their thirties. To protect confidentiality, the CDC suppresses small numbers, and the number of abortions performed on girls younger than 15 and women older than 40 was suppressed. Altogether, age was unreported or suppressed for four percent of the abortions.
Forty-six percent of the abortions were on women with no prior live births, and 58 percent were on women with no previous abortions. Twenty-five percent each were obtained by women with one prior live birth and one previous abortion. Thirty percent of the abortions were on women with two or more live births, while 17 percent were on women with multiple previous abortions. Eighty-six percent of the abortions were on unmarried women, compared to 12 percent on married women and two percent on women of unknown marital status.
In 2020, 51 percent of the abortions reported in Rhode Island were chemical abortions. Forty-two percent were surgical procedures that were performed in the first trimester at 13 weeks of gestation or earlier, and seven percent were surgical abortions performed later than 13 weeks. Nine abortions were performed using unreported or suppressed abortion procedures.
Thirty-eight percent of the abortions performed in Rhode Island in 2020 occurred at six weeks of gestation or earlier. Forty-one percent were performed between seven and nine weeks, and 14 percent occurred between 10 and 13 weeks of gestation. Three percent occurred from 14 to 15 weeks of gestation, while just over two percent were performed between 16 and 17 weeks and another two percent occurred between 18 and 20 weeks. Sixteen abortions were reported at 21 weeks gestation or later.
The report does not explain why abortions in Rhode Island declined in 2018 and 2019; this may have been the result of multiple factors. Some women could have ordered abortion pills online, resulting in a decrease in reported abortions. Now that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has rolled back chemical abortion safety regulations and allowed abortion drugs to be prescribed online and mailed to women, Rhode Island has several websites that advertise abortion pills; however, most of these were not active in 2019. One international website, Aid Access, illegally mailed abortion drugs to U.S. women before the FDA officially permitted abortion by mail, but Aid Access has reported a relatively low average number of requests from Rhode Island women. The decline in Rhode Island abortions may have partially been a result of the closure of one of Rhode Island’s two abortion centers: Women’s Medical Center of Rhode Island switched to chemical abortions only in 2018 and closed down entirely in mid-2019.
Reproductive Privacy Act
In 2019, Rhode Island passed the Reproductive Privacy Act to enshrine Roe v. Wade in state law. Previously, Rhode Island limited abortions at viability unless the mother’s life was in danger; under the new act, abortions after viability are allowed to protect the mother’s life or health. However, the new law does not define “health” or specify reasons for abortion that would be allowed under the health exception.
Initially the bill failed to gather sufficient support from legislators, some of whom felt it was too extreme. The bill was amended to remove provisions that would have weakened Rhode Island’s parental consent law and eliminated the fetal homicide law. A requirement was added that doctors report the reasons why abortions after viability were necessary. The amended bill garnered enough support to pass the legislature and be signed into law, even though the modified version expanded late-term abortion, removed a state-level prohibition against partial-birth abortion, and decriminalized abortion in state law.
In 2016, CLI evaluated abortion reporting across the 50 states, the District of Columbia, and New York City, and Rhode Island was ranked near the bottom of the list. Rhode Island could make its abortion statistics more accessible by compiling them more quickly and publishing them online, as most other states do. Additionally, the Ocean State could follow up with abortion facilities in the state to ensure that all abortions are reported.
- Rhode Island did not share data on the types of abortion procedures used in 2007.
- Rates were calculated by CLI using the following formula: (total number of abortions performed in Rhode Island ÷ number of resident women ages 15-44) 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 2010-2020 are Vintage 2020 postcensal estimates of the July 1 resident population. Estimates were produced by the U.S. Census Bureau and the National Center for Health Statistics.