Oklahoma’s annual abortion report serves as proof that state abortion reports can be both comprehensive and timely. Out of the 43 states that publish annual abortion reports, Oklahoma is one of only nine to have published its 2016 annual report by June of 2017. At the same time, Oklahoma’s 40-page report on abortion remains one of the most exhaustive in the nation.
Oklahoma’s extensive report allows researchers to probe the causes and impacts of the state’s abortion rate. Oklahoma reports over 20 distinct data elements concerning the mother, the baby, and the procedure itself. For state residents, the publication organizes information on abortions by the mother’s age, race, marital status, level of education, previous live births, and previous abortions. The total number of abortions performed in the state on both residents and non-residents is further analyzed according to the mother’s state of residence, reason for abortion (although the majority of mothers choose not to provide a reason), complications, and informed consent for the abortion procedure.
The state also offers information on the children killed by abortion, detailing the weeks of gestation for each abortion performed in the state (up to 20 weeks unless the mother’s life is in danger or she faces a major impact on her physical health) and whether any infants were born alive during botched abortion attempts. Zero born-alive infants were reported for 2016. Additionally, Oklahoma records the method of disposition for each child killed in abortion, one of only four states to include this data element. Abortion facilities are required to report whether aborted babies’ bodies were disposed of at home, via incineration, or via medical waste. In 2016, medical waste was the most common method of disposal, used in 45.4 percent of abortions.
Because of Oklahoma’s detailed and consistent abortion reporting, particularly intriguing abortion trends are easy to identify. The 2016 report reveals that abortion rates in Oklahoma continue to drop. From 2015 to 2016, total abortions decreased almost nine percent. From 2013 to 2016, the decline was more than 14 percent. Over the same time period, however, an increasing percentage of abortions were performed after an ultrasound was conducted. Oklahoma reports ultrasound use before, during, and after abortion procedures. In 2013, an ultrasound was used before 77.5 percent of abortions. By 2016, ultrasounds were used before 99.9 percent of abortions, although abortionists are not required by law to offer to show ultrasound images to patients.
Oklahoma is unique in the speed and quality of its reporting, with a Charlotte Lozier Institute study published in 2016 ranking it number one in the nation right alongside Minnesota. As of July 2017, 21 states and New York City had only published data for 2015. Eleven states and the District of Columbia were even further behind. Three more states do not make reports available online, and seven states do not publish reports at all. As abortion continues to be a source of debate at both the state and the federal level, policymakers cannot afford to overlook the importance of their abortion data. Oklahoma’s annual abortion report stands as an effective and workable model for other states to follow.
Tessa Longbons is an intern for the Charlotte Lozier Institute.