Sebastian's Point

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The State of Abortion in Mississippi

Tessa Longbons  |  10 June 2021

In May, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to take up a case (Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization) concerning Mississippi’s 15-week abortion limit, placing the state in the national spotlight. While Mississippi’s abortion laws have been the center of attention, abortion statistics in Mississippi are worth examining for other reasons as well, including the state’s large percentage of chemical abortions, its changing differences between abortion rates by race, and its fluctuating trends in women entering and leaving the state for abortions.

 

Mississippi reported zero chemical abortions between 2000 and 2011, possibly due to a disagreement between the owner and medical director of the state’s only abortion center, Jackson Women’s Health Organization (JWHO).[1] In 2012, the medical director sued the owner of JWHO, alleging, among other complaints, that the owner pressured him to administer abortion pills using a protocol he felt was unsafe, which he refused to do. The departure of the medical director in 2010, as well as revisions to Mississippi's state abortion reporting form, may have impacted chemical abortion reporting in the state. Regardless, Mississippi chemical abortions jumped from zero in 2011, to one in 2012, to 724 in 2013 and have been steadily increasing ever since. Mississippi now reports one of the highest percentages of chemical abortion in the country, with 68 percent of Mississippi abortions induced chemically in 2018, compared to 40 percent nationally. In 2019, Mississippi chemical abortions increased again to 71 percent of the total.[2]

 

This increase in chemical abortions coincided with other changing trends in the state. Since 2013, when Mississippi began reporting detailed information on the race of women getting abortions, the black abortion rate has been significantly higher than the white abortion rate. Nationally, the disparity in abortion rates by race has been large and longstanding, with the non-Hispanic black abortion rate over three times the non-Hispanic white rate in 2018.[3],[4] However, the disparity between rates is even greater in Mississippi, with black women undergoing abortions at three to six times the rate of white women between 2013 and 2019. In 2019, the black rate was over four times the white rate. Although the gap between the two rates was smaller than in some previous years, this narrowing was caused by an increase in white abortions rather than a decrease in black abortions. Both black and white abortion rates went up between 2013 and 2019, but the white rate increased by a greater margin. Chemical abortion may have played a role. Between 2013 and 2019, chemical abortions composed just over half of the abortions performed on black women (54 percent). In contrast, two-thirds of the abortions performed on white women were chemical. In 2019 alone, 75 percent of abortions performed on white women were chemical, compared to 70 percent on black women.

 

Mississippi has also seen an increase in abortions performed on women from other states. In 2013, just 2.5 percent of the abortions reported in Mississippi were performed on non-resident women. By 2019, women from outside Mississippi had increased to 10 percent of the total. These women were more likely to be white, with 39 percent of the non-resident abortions performed on white women, compared to 22 percent on white women overall. Additionally, white women made up a slightly larger percentage of Mississippi women traveling to other states for abortions. Of all the abortions reported to have been performed on Mississippi residents in other states in 2019, just under 26 percent were performed on white women.

 

Mississippi’s abortion trends have not occurred in a vacuum. Abortion in the state has been impacted by increases in chemical abortions across the country and regional variations in women crossing state lines for abortions. The attention focused on Mississippi underscores the need for good abortion data in every state to provide an accurate picture of the impact of state laws and policies. If the Supreme Court upholds Mississippi’s 15-week law and states gain greater ability to regulate pre-viability abortions, state-level abortion data will become even more important.

 

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[1] See Longbons T. Abortion Reporting: Mississippi (2017). Charlotte Lozier Institute. https://lozierinstitute.org/abortion-reporting-mississippi-2017/ Published May 16, 2019. Accessed June 7, 2021.

[2] Mississippi 2019 abortion statistics, provided to the Charlotte Lozier Institute by the Mississippi State Department of Health in May 2021.

[3] See Kortsmit K, et al. Abortion surveillance — United States, 2018. MMWR Surveill Summ. 2020;69:1-29. doi:10.15585/mmwr.ss6907a1

[4] Studnicki J, Fisher JW, Sherley JL. Perceiving and addressing the pervasive racial disparity in abortion. Health Serv Res Manag Epidemiol. 2020;7. https://doi.org/10.1177%2F2333392820949743

Tessa Longbons

Research Associate

Charlotte Lozier Institute