SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Prior to the fall of Roe v. Wade, abortions in South Dakota were continuing a steady decline in 2021.
The South Dakota Department of Health (DOH) reported 192 abortions in their annual Induced Abortion Report. That’s only a small increase from 125 abortions in 2020 when Planned Parenthood halted services due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We are thankful that the 2021 total of 192 is the second lowest number of abortions in South Dakota since 1973,” Dale Bartscher, Executive Director of SD Right to Life, said in a statement sent to KELOLAND News.
While the number of abortions in South Dakota last year was lower than in previous years, data from the Minnesota Department of Health shows that 158 women traveled from South Dakota for an abortion. To the south, Nebraska saw 77 South Dakotans seeking abortions in 2021. Iowa has not yet released its annual data on abortions in the state.
With abortion now banned in South Dakota, the number of people traveling out of state is likely to increase according to Kim Floren, co-founder of the Justice Empowerment Network (JEN).
“I mean, like I’ve said before, most of the patients that we were helping, were already going out of state,” Floren said.
JEN assists people in finding abortion care and funding travel and other associated costs. Since the fall of Roe, Floren said they’ve seen an uptick in calls from people seeking help from as far away as Texas.
“And those patients are going to clinics, like as far as Nebraska, and Iowa and Minnesota,” Floren said. “I talked to somebody who drove 900 miles yesterday.”
Bartscher said that SD Right to Life was “saddened” to see the number of people traveling out of state for abortions. In the statement, Bartscher said that the next step is to “protect South Dakota mothers” who seek abortions out of state.
“While we expect elective abortions in South Dakota, and in many of our surrounding states, to be drastically reduced or even eliminated, we know there will be an increase in pregnant mothers traveling to other states for abortions,” Bartscher said.
Breaking down the data
Of the 192 induced abortions performed in 2021, the majority of them were among people aged 20-29 (114). Six minors (0-17) had an abortion in South Dakota last year.
South Dakotans mostly had surgical abortions (62%) rather than medication abortions (37%).
It was also the first abortion for many South Dakotans with 74% never having an abortion prior to 2021. Of the reported abortions, 19.3% of people reported having one other abortion, 5.2% had two abortions and 1% had more than two abortions.
When it comes to why people chose to have an abortion, not wanting to have the child came out on top at 68.8% followed by 46.4% of people saying they could not afford to have the child. It’s a trend that’s been consistent dating back at least five years according to DOH data.
Also included in the data was the number of people who already had children. The majority (68.7%) of people who had abortions already had at least one living child. The remaining 31.3% of reported abortions did not have any children.
Floren said this data lines up with what she’s experienced in her work with JEN.
“Well, I mean, there’s a lot of people who are just trying to parent the kids that they already have,” Floren said. “And, you know, the reason the reasons are always so much more complicated than just, I can’t, I can’t afford another child right now.”
SD Right to Life said that they will continue to work to make sure that abortion is not only illegal but unthinkable.
“We will continue helping women navigate pregnancies they did not plan for as we remind South Dakotans that the Pro-Life movement cares about the lives of mothers as well as their unborn children,” Bartscher said.
The abortions that occurred primarily took place at 10 weeks or below. 35.1% of abortions in 2021 were at 9-10 weeks with 25.1% at 7-8 weeks, 16.2% at 11-12 weeks, 14.7% at 6 weeks or less and 8.9% taking place at 13 weeks or later.
160 of the 192 abortions were paid for by the patient with 27 using private health insurance and 5 using public health insurance. The costs ranged from less than $600 to $700+.