Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Abortions Down Slightly in Minnesota

The Minneapolis Star Tribune reports today that abortions are down slightly in Minnesota. But that’s pretty much all the article says, making it little more than a regurgitation of highlights of Minnesota’s state-law-mandated health department report (pdf). The reporter called, um, no one for comment. In fact, the only quote in the article is from Scott Fischbach, the executive director of the anti-choice organization Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life, and came from a press release the group put out.

I managed to get a hold of Kathi Di Nicola, director of media relations for Planned Parenthood Minnesota, North Dakota, and South Dakota. She acknowledged that the Star Tribune is working on a lengthier piece, and noted that Planned Parenthood works on many fronts to reduce the number of unintended pregnancies. That includes a whole host of issues enveloping abortion, women’s health care, access to birth control, and comprehensive sex education.

The issue of abortion is tied to the larger issue of access to affordable health care. “We’re witnessing the health care crisis firsthand,” Di Nichola said. Given that women need more regular health care, she noted that many women who lose health insurance due to economic hardship are relying on Planned Parenthood as a “safety net” for health care. “We’ve pulled apart preventing unintended pregnancies and abortion as two separate issues,” she said, when in fact both are part of the larger issue of access to health care. “It’s a complex problem.”

Minnesota is one of the more than 20 states that are refusing federal funding set aside for abstinence-only education, but Planned Parenthood’s advocacy affiliate worked in the state house to pass a law called Responsible Family Life and Sexuality Education (RFLSE), legislation that would mandate “comprehensive, medically accurate, and age appropriate curriculum.” The law made its way into an omnibus spending bill but was dropped due to a veto threat.

While Minnesota can certainly highlight the fact that fewer abortions were necessary, Di Nichola made it clear that this is merely one aspect of a messy health care crisis–a crisis worsened by a lack of access to comprehensive education. Of course, preventing teenagers from having access to effective sex education is more or less a permanent platform of groups like Minnesota Family Council, which opposed the RFLSE bill in the hopes that talking about not having sex will make teenagers chaste.

Cross posted.

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