Abortions sought by residents in Athens County mirror the national trend of declining abortion rates.
Last month, the Ohio Department of Health released the state’s comprehensive data on induced abortions throughout 2018. Eleven years ago in 2008, abortionists operating within the state carried out 29,613 abortions, whereas 2018 saw 20,425.
The data only includes abortions that happened inside the state of Ohio and does not account for Ohio residents who sought an abortion outside of Ohio, according to the report.
Athens County has seen an even more drastic decrease in abortions this decade. In 2008, county residents underwent 101 induced abortion procedures, according to the report. Only 44 total induced abortions were seen in 2018. That is more than a 56% reduction.
As a whole, Ohio has seen a 31% drop in abortions over the last decade, making it the state’s lowest rate since Ohio began reporting the statistic after Roe v. Wade nearly a half century ago. There has been a steady decline in the amount of abortion procedures taking place since 2001, according to the report.
According to the Guttmacher Institute’s latest findings, the United States as a whole reported a record low of 862,320 abortions in 2017, or an average of 2,363 abortions per day. That annual data is in line with the steady decline in recent years.
Jane Balbo, physician at OhioHealth, said she can only speculate, but believes the downward trend can be attributed to better access to “effective contraception” and health care plans that are in line with the Affordable Care Act, which cover all forms of contraception.
Abortion rates are highest in Ohio for women age 25 to 29. In Athens, however, the vast majority of those who seek an abortion are between 20 and 24 years old. That can be attributed to the higher number of college students in Athens County compared to the average county.
“Preventing pregnancy in those who want to be sexually active and don’t want to get pregnant is a very important aspect of reducing unplanned pregnancies and reducing abortion rates,” Balbo said in an email. “OhioHealth Campus Care at Ohio University offers all OU students the opportunity to meet with a highly trained Contraception Counselor for free.”
Councilwoman Sarah Grace, D-At Large, believes the consistent decline can be attributed to the combination of greater access to birth control and more comprehensive education on appropriate practices and precautions.
“Generally, the best way to lower abortion rates is through access to birth control and education,” Grace said.
David VandenBerghe, a senior studying aviation, believes that the decline of abortions in Ohio is a good thing.
"I believe it is a good trend because human life starts at conception and no one has the right to take that away," VandenBerghe said.
Lydia Sharpshair, a senior studying Spanish, credited pregnancy centers in helping to reduce the abortion rate.
"Pregnancy centers that support women are really great because they really allow women to see all their options and that abortion is not always the answer,” Sharpshair said. “I really like that with centers that support women, it contributes to the choice that women have to respect life and to respect their own life.”