Number of women coming into state for procedure rises.
Newly released data on abortion in Tennessee reveal a steady decline in the number of abortions performed over the past decade — and a steady increase in the percentage of out-of-state women heading to Tennessee for the procedure.
There were 16,373 abortions performed in Tennessee in 2010, down 6 percent from a decade ago, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Over the same time period, the percentage of women coming from outside Tennessee for abortions increased by more than 30 percent. One in four abortions in 2010 was sought by an out-of-state woman — a result of bordering states passing abortion restrictions and a steep decline in abortion clinics in those states.
The abortion data are likely to figure heavily in the next general election, when voters will decide whether to support or oppose Amendment 1, a ballot measure that would strip abortion protections from the Tennessee constitution.
Amendment 1 supporters have begun circulating fliers that say "An abortion destination?" and urging voters that passage of the ballot measure will give lawmakers more power to pass reasonable restrictions. Amendment 1 opponents note that Tennessee lawmakers already have enacted abortion restrictions.
More recent data compiled by the Tennessee Department of Health provides a snapshot of Tennessee women who have sought abortions. The data are different from the CDC's because they track only Tennessee residents.
The data show that most abortions are sought by Tennessee women in their 20s. The vast majority are first-time abortions. And most procedures are performed before seven weeks of gestation.
While non-white Tennesseans constitute just 17 percent of all state residents, non-white women were more likely to obtain abortions than white women. Non-white women obtained 6,294 abortions in 2012 versus 5,376 sought by white women.
A recent poll by Middle Tennessee State University found that 51 percent of Tennesseans think abortion should be "legal only under certain circumstances." Another 12 percent think it should be "legal under any circumstances," and 32 percent think it should be "illegal in all circumstances."