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Abortions on the First Coast: They're declining so far this year

Abortion.jpg
Tyrone Turner
/
WAMU
Jessica Golibart, a Washington, D.C., resident, protests outside the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday, May 3.

A controversial Supreme Court draft decision on abortion rights comes at a time when abortions are declining in Florida.

The Agency for Health Care Administration recorded 79,811 abortions statewide last year, a 6.6% increase from 2020.

Northeast Florida was in line with those numbers. AHCA recorded 5,450 abortions in Duval, St. Johns, Clay, Nassau and Baker counties, also a 6.6% increase from 2020.

But the pace this year is significantly slower. AHCA records show 16,623 abortions in 2022, which would be a 38% drop if the trend continued through the year. At least 1,205 abortions have been performed locally.

ACHA, citing privacy concerns, notes that counties with fewer than 20 abortions are included in the statewide numbers, but not in the county-by-county breakdown. Baker County is one of 24 counties in the state with fewer than 20 abortions this year.

Excluding Baker County, the four other First Coast counties would witness a 33.8% decline in abortions this year if the pace continued.

Monday night, Politico reported the contents of a draft opinion from the Supreme Court that, if finalized, would overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that legalized abortion.

Chief Justice John Roberts confirmed the validity of the draft on Tuesday but stressed that it “does not represent the final opinion of the court.” It is not uncommon for justices' positions to change as drafts are circulated among them.

A final opinion is expected in the coming months. Regardless, abortion supporters predict significant ramifications in Northeast Florida and the state as a whole if the opinion stands.

“Whenever you have one civil right or civil liberty that is being disrupted, or threatened, everything can fall under that,” Kanesha Fuller, president of the Women’s March of Jacksonville, said Tuesday morning on First Coast Connect. “It really can create a downfall of rights overall. So, when we ask people to vote, when we ask people to show up and we ask people to mobilize, we are, essentially, fighting for all civil liberties, even if we are now focusing on one in particular.”

A majority of listeners calling First Coast Connect expressed dismay at what the draft opinion could mean. But others, including a person who identified herself as Heather, applauded the move.

“I, for one, am thrilled that the Supreme Court is doing this,” Heather said. “It’s been a long time coming. It reverts the power back to the states. If you don’t like it, change your state. Move to a different state.”

Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill in April that would prohibit abortions after 15 weeks in Florida. That law (HB 5) replaces the current state law, which bans third-trimester abortions.

The bill also called for additional data and information on the type of abortions provided in the state — whether surgical or medication-induced — as well as the medications prescribed during the procedure.

Another First Coast Connect caller, who identified herself as Jennifer, said Roe v. Wade did not go far enough.

“That decision was great, and it helped a lot of people for a long time, but it’s actually not sufficient to protect the rights that we really need to have,” Jennifer said. “I think that abortion access and other health care decisions should be protected in law, not just in the courts.”

Regardless of what transpires at the federal level, abortion remains a fraught topic on the ground in Florida and in the state at large.

An overwhelming majority of the abortions in Florida are elective, according to ACHA records. That's immediately followed by abortions for social and economic reasons.

Though abortions in the state increased by less than 7% in 2021, the number of cases due to social and economic reasons increased 11.2%.