A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

State had sharp increase in pregnancy terminations in 2020, according to annual report by Office of Vital Statistics

By Tessa Richmond
Kentucky Today

The Commonwealth saw another sharp increase in both overall pregnancy terminations and the use of chemical abortion pills last year, according to the Office of Vital Statistics.

Elective abortions in the state have been on the rise since 2017, when the Department for Public Health started gathering and publishing data related to abortions. Not even a pandemic slowed the rate in Kentucky — there were 440 more abortions in 2020 than in 2019, which saw 3,664 babies aborted.

Over 1,100 of those abortions were performed in the first six weeks of pregnancy, with a majority occurring within the first trimester. There were no third-trimester abortions.

Just over half of terminated pregnancies used the chemical, or medical, abortion method. The two-step pill regimen includes mifepristone, which cuts off the life-sustaining supply of progesterone to a developing fetus, and then misoprostol, which induces contractions, causing a woman to then miscarry her child. Chemical abortions can only be performed up to 10 weeks gestation.

Other procedures, most commonly used in second-trimester abortions, included suction curettage and dilation and evacuation (D&E). In the former, a small suction tube is inserted into the uterus, where it vacuums a fetus out of the mother’s womb, and then remaining tissue from the pregnancy is removed. Like suction curettage abortions, D&E procedures use a vacuum to remove tissue from the womb. However, forceps and often a curette are used to pull a baby out of the womb and scrape remaining tissue from the uterine lining.

While well over 4,000 abortions were performed without complications, 30  women experienced various difficulties, including incomplete abortions, heavy bleeding, and uterine or cervical laceration as a result of terminating their pregnancies.

According to state law, physicians who perform abortions must report 1) whether the pregnancy termination provided the best chance for an unborn child to survive and 2) whether the abortion was deemed medically necessary. For 4,103 abortions, the Office of Vital Statistics reported that the terminations either did not provide the best chance for a baby to survive the procedure — or it was unknown.

Only one abortion was reported as necessary.

View the report here, or visit chfs.ky.gov to download reports from 2017 to 2020.

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