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Sebastian's Point

Sebastian's Point is a weekly column written by one of our members regarding timely events or analysis of relevant ideas, which impact the Culture of Life. All regular members are invited to submit a column for publication at soss.submissions@gmail.com. Columns should be between 800 to 1300 words and comply with the high standards expected in academic writing, including proper citations of authority or assertions referred to in your column. Please see, Submission Requirements for more details.

The Life-Saving Impact of State Actions Following the Dobbs Decision: A Case Study of Plummeting 2022 Abortion Totals in Oklahoma and Arkansas

Mia Steupert, M.A.

Research Associate

Charlotte Lozier Institute  | 13 July 2023

In a world obsessed with “following the science,” it is surprising that some in the government and American culture do not “follow the science” when it comes to the reality that life begins at conception. More than 5,000 academic biologists concur with this fact.[1]

 

Following the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health decision, for the first time since Roe v. Wade was wrongly decided in 1973, state and federal officials were freed to follow this scientific truth. Several states such as Oklahoma and Arkansas jumped at the opportunities presented to them by the Dobbs decision and their bravery has paid off. Abortion totals have plummeted in these states and, as a result, thousands of unborn children are getting a chance at life, and not as many women are experiencing the physical and emotional effects of abortion.[2]

 

Before the Dobbs decision, abortion was prohibited in Arkansas after 22 weeks gestation.[3] Following the Dobbs decision, the state prohibited abortion from conception except to save the life of the mother. The state’s 2022 abortion report shows that the impact of the state’s actions immediately following Dobbs was extensive.[4] The state’s abortion total decreased from 3,133 in 2021 to 1,621 in 2022, a decrease of 48 percent. The decades-long, persistent effort to protect life in the state decreased the state’s abortion totals by 71 percent from 2000 (5,501 abortions) to 2022 (1,621).  

 

Furthermore, the state was able to successfully decrease the number of dangerous chemical procedures occurring in the state by 78 percent, from an all-time high of 1,725 in 2020 to 379 in 2022.[5] The significant drop in chemical abortions due to the passage of Act 562 in 2021 also saved women from experiencing increased levels of abortion-related complications.[6] There was a positive relationship in 2020-2022 between the increase in chemical abortions and the increase in complications that women experienced.[7]

 

Table 1- The Association Between Decreasing Total Abortions and Chemical Abortions and the Decrease in Complications in Arkansas, 2020-2022[8]

Year   Chem. Ab. Total     Total Ab.    Complications​  % Diff. from Prev. Year

2020           1725                              3154                    45                                     N/A

 

2021           1190                              3133                    31                                      -31%

 

2022           379                              1621                     12                                       -61%

 

 

Similar to Arkansas, before the Dobbs decision, Oklahoma limited abortion to 22 weeks gestation except in the cases of the mother’s life or physical health being endangered by the pregnancy.[9] In May 2022, the state was able to enforce a heartbeat bill and a complete prohibition on abortion from the moment of conception using civil remedies as enforcement mechanisms.[10] Since the Dobbs decision the state’s 1910 and 2022 criminal prohibitions on abortion (except to save the life of the mother) have either both been in effect or one or the other. As of now, the 1910 law is the only one in effect.

 

Of the two states, Oklahoma’s pre- and post-Dobbs lifesaving laws had the bigger impact on the decrease in abortion totals and the number of chemical abortions in the state. These laws allowed Oklahoma to decrease the state’s abortion total from an all-time high of 7,287 in 2021 to 2,160 in 2022, a decrease of 67 percent.[11] Similar to Arkansas, Oklahoma was able to curtail the performance of the chemical abortion procedure from an all-time high of 5,009 in 2021 to 1,255 in 2022. This decrease was spurred by legislation passed first in 2012 and then again in 2021 with the passage of SB 778 which contained the same provisions as Arkansas’ Act 562.[12]

 

Oklahoma’s passage of SB 778 as well as its complications reporting law[13] allows one to see that mothers in Oklahoma have also been protected from experiencing complications.[14] Generally speaking, as the number of chemical abortions started increasing markedly in the state, so did the number of complications that women experienced. However, when the state passed the aforementioned legislation in 2021 and 2022, the number of chemical abortions decreased by a similar percentage (75 percent) as did the number of complications in that period (77 percent).

 

Table 2- The Association Between Decreasing Total Abortions and Chemical Abortions and the Decrease in Complications in Oklahoma, 2014-2022 (OK2SHARE state database)[15]

Year             Chem. Ab total            Total ab.​            Complications[16]      % Difference in Comp.

                                                                                                                    from Prev. Year

2014                  1813                               4916                                24                                             N/A

 

2015                       1825                               4709                               27                                             +13%

 

2016                       1872                               4294                               29                                              +7%

 

2017                       2495                               4723                               29                                             N/A

 

2018                       2637                               5014                               18                                             -38%

 

2019                       3041                               5745                               11                                              -39%

 

2020                      4062                               5702                              29                                           +164%

 

2021                      5009                               7287                               52                                            +79%

 

2022                     1255                                2160                               12                                              -77%

 

 

Oklahoma’s 2022 induced abortion report provides researchers with a monthly breakdown of abortion totals. The data shows that abortion totals decreased to zero the month following the passage of the state’s pre-Dobbs laws and remained at zero following the Dobbs decision and the state’s continued enforcement of pro-life laws.

 

Table 3- 2022 Oklahoma Abortion Totals by Month

 

                          Ab. Totals

Jan                          615

Feb                          593

March                     800

April                        147

May                           5

June                          0

July                           0

Aug                           0

Sept                          0

Oct                            0

Nov                           0

Dec                           0

 

While Arkansas’ and Oklahoma’s plummeting abortion totals represent a wonderful new era that Dobbs ushered in, these facts do not negate the need for federal action. Without action by the Congress of the United States, 616,000 lives would still be at risk of being extinguished at the hands of abortionists and reckless online abortion pill companies.[17] Without federal action, states like California, Maryland, New York, and several others will continue to execute the unborn without limit. It is far past time for the federal government to protect life at all stages in the quickest way possible.

 

_____________________

[1] https://www.supremecourt.gov/DocketPDF/19/19-1392/185346/20210729162737297_19-1392%20BRIEF%20OF%20BIOLOGISTS%20AS%20AMICI%20CURIAE%20IN%20SUPPORT%20OF%20NEITHER%20PARTY.pdf

[2] https://lozierinstitute.org/immediate-physical-complications-of-induced-abortion/; https://www.mdpi.com/1660-4601/18/4/2179

[3] This law had life and physical health of the mother exceptions as well as rape and incest exceptions.

[4] https://healthy.arkansas.gov/images/uploads/pdf/Induced_Abortion_2022.pdf

[5] https://lozierinstitute.org/a-longitudinal-cohort-study-of-emergency-room-utilization-following-mifepristone-chemical-and-surgical-abortions-1999-2015/ ; In 2021, Arkansas passed Act 562 which went into effect in July 2021 and requires that only physicians administer chemical abortions and that physicians must provide women with an in-person examination before the abortion.

[6] https://www.arkleg.state.ar.us/Home/FTPDocument?path=%2FACTS%2F2021R%2FPublic%2FACT562.pdf

[7] 2020 was the first full year that the complications reporting law was in effect. The complication totals, underestimates, represent a minimal number of deaths and complications, due to the severe underreporting of complications that researchers have documented.

[8] The state’s 2020-2022 abortion and chemical abortion totals as well as yearly complication reports can be found here- https://www.healthy.arkansas.gov/programs-services/topics/vital-statistics .

[9] https://oklahoma.gov/content/dam/ok/en/health/health2/aem-documents/data-and-statistics/center-for-health-statistics/induces-termination-of-pregnancy/oklahoma-abortion-statutes.pdf#page=50

[10] The heartbeat law contained life and physical health of the mother exceptions as well as an exception in the cases of rape and incest and the complete prohibition law contained a life of the mother exception as well as a rape and incest exception.

[11] 2002 is the first year that the state’s induced termination of pregnancy database, OK2SHARE, started collecting occurrence data for abortions performed in the state. All of the data relating to Oklahoma abortion totals and rates can be found by utilizing the OK2SHARE database. The state’s 2022 induced abortion report does not contain the correct totals for previous years.

[12] https://legiscan.com/OK/text/SB778/id/2272091; https://www.arkleg.state.ar.us/Home/FTPDocument?path=%2FACTS%2F2021R%2FPublic%2FACT562.pdf

[13] While the law was passed in 2010, 2014 was the first year that complication forms were submitted to the state’s Department of Health; http://webserver1.lsb.state.ok.us/cf_pdf/2009-10%20INT/SB/SB2216%20INT.PDF

[14] See footnote 3.

[15] The occurrence abortion totals in the state’s 2019-2021 reports do not match  the reports published by the state in those years because, as the OK2SHARE tables note, the 2019-2021 totals have been updated due to a significant number of abortions being reported after the annual reports had been published.

[16] https://oklahoma.gov/health/health-education/data-and-statistics/center-for-health-statistics/health-care-information/induced-termination-of-pregnancy.html

[17] https://lozierinstitute.org/from-the-desk-of-clis-president-a-reflection-one-year-post-dobbs/

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