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Health dept. reports 20% increase in abortions in Minnesota from beginning of 2022 to end

More people are traveling to Minnesota for abortions
More people are traveling to Minnesota for abortions 02:10

MINNEAPOLIS -- The number of abortions in Minnesota increased 20% from 2021 to 2022, according to a new report from the state's health department.

People seeking abortions in Minnesota but live elsewhere in the U.S. helped drive that surge, the data show. For example, the number of abortions performed here on patients from Texas was eight times higher than 2021 -- 150 versus 18.

Minnesota Department of Health

But most of the out-of-state patients came from neighboring states of Iowa, Wisconsin, South Dakota and North Dakota. In North Dakota alone, the number of patients coming across the border for an abortion soared by 350% in that one-year span.

The report says there were over 10,000 abortions performed in 2021 and that surpassed 12,000 in 2022, the year U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade and created a patchwork of abortion laws across the country.

Shayla Walker, executive director of Our Justice, said she was surprised the year-over-year increase in abortions wasn't higher. Her organization helps connect people seeking the procedure to resources, including financial assistance.

"We in the movement were anticipating that it was going to be much higher," Walker said. "What that speaks to is people—even though there are a lot of people who can travel, those are people are folks who have privileges."

Abortion remains legal in Minnesota following Roe because of a 1995 Minnesota Supreme Court decision, but the DFL-led legislature year moved quickly early this session to enshrine those protections in state statute with the PRO Act, establishing "fundamental right" to an abortion and reproductive health care, like fertility treatments and contraception.

Lawmakers also repealed some abortion restrictions and passed a "shield law" designed to protect providers and patients from out-of-state seeking abortions in Minnesota.  

Cathy Blaeser, co-executive director of Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life, called the report "distressing" and attributed the uptick to recent law changes and action by state courts. Last summer, a Ramsey County judge nullified some of the state's abortion restrictions, and Democrats at the state capitol this year repealed many of those statutes from the books.  

"[Abortions have] gone up 20%. They're going to go up even more because of the environment that the DFL leadership and Governor Walz have provided for Minnesotans beyond what Minnesotans want," said Blaeser. "Minnesotans are outraged and activated and motivated to make changes to what has just happened."

Walker said despite Minnesota's robust protections for abortion, access is still uneven and that is exacerbated by out-of-state patients. Our Justice has arranged for Minnesotans to seek abortions in other places where it's legal for that reason.

"There's been this narrative that Minnesota is an island for access; however, the access is pretty limited given the amount of providers we have," she explained. "So as people are traveling here, there are less and less opportunities for Minnesotans to get the care they need in their own communities. We are having to navigate that."

Planned Parenthood North Central States has seen a 100% increase in out-of-state patients since Roe fell, according to the organization's CEO Ruth Richardson. But she said that the number of providers is growing, which is a positive step.

Lawmakers expanded who can provide abortions from just physicians to nurse practitioners and physicians assistants.

"Within this space of where we're seeing an increase in people traveling from outside Minnesota here – it's really important to be able to have that additional capacity for folks who are in need of that care," she told WCCO.

MinnPost poll last fall found 76% of Minnesotans would oppose an abortion ban in the state in wake of the Supreme Court's Dobbs decision.

The legislature made changes to the abortion statistics report, delaying its release from July to December and limited its scope. Certain data will no longer be provided, like detailing the reason for the abortion, or what type of health insurance coverage a patient has.

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