Editor’s Note: In 2012 CLI published a lengthy paper summarizing the strengths and weaknesses of federal and state abortion reporting policies and practices. Beginning with this overview of the state of Idaho’s latest published report, CLI is reexamining these policies and practices, looking forward to an update of the 2012 report with more comprehensive evaluations of the states and recommendations for specific improvements. As these overviews will make clear, the quality of state reports does not depend on the political composition, size, or budgets of the various states. The information contained in these documents is of surpassing public interest and enhanced efforts are within the reach of even the smallest government units in this age of the Internet.
Due to the general weakness of legislation on the topic, state abortion reporting lacks uniformity, consistency, timeliness and depth. For example, only a fraction of states have published their 2015 annual abortion reports. Of the handful of reports published in 2015 so far, the amount of detail varies from very minimal (Virginia and Florida) to 20-page detailed reports (Nebraska and Idaho).
Idaho’s “Induced Abortion Data Summary,” produced by the Bureau of Vital Records and Health Statistics at Idaho’s Department of Health and Welfare, is a comprehensive, 23-page examination of abortions recorded from 2003 to 2013. Idaho’s induced abortion report was published in January 2015. The data within this report includes general demographics, procedure characteristics, the amount of educational materials provided to the mother, and details on informed consent for mothers younger than 18-years-old.
A summary at the beginning of the report shows that between 2012 and 2013, abortions decreased 5.7 percent, from 1,458 to 1,375. Additionally, there was a 26.4 percent decrease in abortions among teens (15-19 years old) between 2012 and 2013. There was a 4.2 percent decrease in abortions occurring in Idaho to Idaho residents from 1,379 in 2012 to 1,321 in 2013. While the number of abortions among married women increased 14.2 percent, the number of abortions among unmarried women decreased 9.1 percent from 1,257 in 2012 to 1,143 in 2013. The report also concludes that the number of abortions decreased among white women, Asian women, and black women. Lastly, the number of abortions among Hispanic and non-Hispanic women decreased.
This exhaustive report is full of helpful information. However, only a portion of this information is readily available on Idaho’s Department of Health and Welfare website. To be fair, Idaho publishes more abortion statistics than most states. However, the five- or six-page summary found on the website gives only a glimpse of the information found in the full report, which the state department provided by mail upon request. Publication of more comprehensive information online is in the public interest.
According to Idaho Code Section 39-261, the state has been required to report induced abortions occurring in Idaho since July 1, 1977. Idaho compiles extensive information into impressive reports. Why should these reports only be available upon request? Information about abortion trends is very helpful to both citizens and policy makers. These reports should be made much more accessible.
Rebecca Gonzales is an intern for the Charlotte Lozier Institute.