Increasing Rates of Abortion in Illinois Raise Questions about Social, Political and Economic Factors

According to the Chicago Sun-Times, abortion is at a ten year high in Illinois. There are a couple factors being credited for the 5% increase in abortion rates since 2007. The first of those reasons being the plummeting economy. Dave Mckinney reports,

The state’s main provider of abortion services has heard from its clients that the economy is a factor in their decisions, said Steve Trombley, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Council’s Chicago area chapter.

“When couples are facing an unintended pregnancy and have to make a decision whether they want to carry pregnancy to term and have another child, they’ll factor economic circumstance into the decision,” Trombley said. “If one or both parents is unemployed, it’s less likely couples are going to want to expand their family size.”

On top of the recession impacting women’s decision to opt for an abortion, the new clinic in Aurora has also contributed to making abortion more accessible in Illinois. Unfortunately, the increase in abortion rates has also caused a bit of an uproar among anti-choice advocates in the state; my ultimate fear being that religious nutjobs will cite this increase as a justification for more restrictive abortion laws. Robert Gilligan, executive director of the anti-abortion Catholic Conference of Illinois, for example, blames the increasing number of abortions on the opening of Aurora’s Planned Parenthood Clinic in 2007. In addition, Gilligan blames a lack of restrictive regulations, such as parental notification, for the sudden increase.

Gilligan said he thinks other factors also are driving the statewide increase, starting with a lack of “common-sense laws” restricting abortion. He cites the long-stalled parental notification law that is tied up in litigation despite having passed the Illinois General Assembly in 1995.

His group and others have pushed for changes in law to require women to witness ultrasound images of their fetuses before abortion and to impose mandatory waiting periods, but those approaches have not gained legislative traction.

I’ll stick with my last opinion on ultrasound laws; they are invasive and pathologize women.

Something the article, or Gilligan for that matter, fails to mention, is the lack of comprehensive sex education in Illinois. Nearly two out of five Illinois students learn that abstinence is their only method of birth control, while the other three out of five students learn about sex in a shameful, demonizing way, providing only alarmist misinformation about sex and sexuality. RH Reality Check also reports that Illinois receives one of the largest sums of federal dollars for Abstinence-only education.

The federal government, through Title V, Section 510 and Community-Based Abstinence Education grants, has allocated the state of Illinois more than $7.5 million to provide abstinence-only-until-marriage programs to students, parents and community groups. That’s the sixth-highest disbursement in the nation

Although the emphasis on Abstinence-only education is up for debate in the Spring, the status quo is failing to provide Illinois students with adequate education on how to prevent pregnancy. I think that can more-than-account for the sudden increase in abortion rates among 14 year-olds that Gilligan loves to reference as a justification for invasive parental notification laws. If we expect kids to be honest with their parents about abortion — we should probably start by trusting them with honest information about sex.

About aj:
Andrew (AJ) is a vehement progressive, youth activist, and reproductive justice organizer. When he's not busy with the movement, you can usually find him dancing in the club or watching trashy reality tv.


  1. AJ-

    Abortion rates have increased because students have not been taught the proper sex ed curriculum in schools? This is the most ludicrous argument I have ever heard. Why is it the school’s job to teach about sex? Teachers have a lot of curriculum to teach in a school year. Sex ed. should be low on the priority list, if on it at all. I realize some parents dismiss this responsibility and schools must step in, so let’s assume your argument is true: If schools instruct students properly in sex ed (ie No abstinence education) kids will have fewer abortions because they will now know how to practice safe sex. Now let’s see what this really teaches our youth: You can have sex whenever you feel like it. There is no responsibility attached to this action becasue you have been taught safe ways to have sex. You are simply an object for another person to desire and play with as he/she pleases. Sadly, one only needs to peruse a celebrity magazine, flip through the television channels or watch a movie to realize that this is already what society is teaching our youth. We don’t need schools to do the same.
    And we certainly don’t want to inform students that sex is for marriage ONLY. What message would this send? That you are a valuable person? That you have self worth and yes, self control? That sex with your spouse is the ultimate act of self giving? And if you are blessed in your marriage, you may have a child as a result of this loving act? We couldn’t dare teach this in our schools becasue students may actually learn the truth, wait until marriage to have sex and then become loving, responsible parents!

    One more comment is necessary. You stated that ultrasound laws are “invasive” and pathological” for a woman. Let me get this straight, an ultrasound is “invasive” but an abortion is okay? An ultrasound that shows a mother there is a human life growing inside her is “pathological,” but an abortion, that kills that life inside her, isn’t? I don’t follow your logic and I am sure no one else does either.

  2. First of all, comprehensive sex education doesn’t cause teens to have more sex. However, it does cause them to have safer sex. A large component of healthy sex education is respecting your body enough to take care of it and having the confidence to do so.
    The fact that teens are exposed to airbrushed media images and peer conversations that affect their attitudes about themselves and sex is yet another case for scientifically backed sexuality education.

    Second, I follow his logic perfectly that requiring an ultrasound prior to an abortion is pathological and invasive.
    Pathology is deviation from healthy and normal. Setting yet another requirement for an already stressful procedure is certainly not healthy and shouldn’t be seen as normal.
    Invasive can mean encroaching on someone’s privacy. Forcing someone to have an unnecessary ultrasound invades a woman’s ability to make private decisions with her doctor.

    Lastly, my home county in Illinois is one of the many that doesn’t have an abortion provider. Women have to drive to the neighboring county. While I was in school we only had basic sex ed for about 2 days in my sophomore health class. I wonder what it is like now.

  3. Interesting, but doesn’t resonate. CPS prengnancy rates are still sky-high in spite of mandatory “comprehensive” sex ed.

    The fact is that many of the effective “abstinence” programs (which are more widely used in IL) are similar to the effective “comprehensive” programs. What doesn’t work are the out-of-date “just say no” abstinence programs that don’t address relationship skills, or the off-the-wall “comprehensive” sex ed which teach things like masturbation for kindergarteners. Neither hold up in studies as being effective for reducing pregnancy or disease.

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