Abortions increased last year in Georgia — except for Black women

Abortion rights activists protest in Atlanta in July 2022 after a federal appeals court allowed Georgia’s restrictive abortion law to take effect, banning the procedure in most cases about six weeks into a pregnancy. (Arvin Temkar / arvin.temkar@ajc.com)

Credit: arvin.temkar@ajc.com

Credit: arvin.temkar@ajc.com

Abortion rights activists protest in Atlanta in July 2022 after a federal appeals court allowed Georgia’s restrictive abortion law to take effect, banning the procedure in most cases about six weeks into a pregnancy. (Arvin Temkar / arvin.temkar@ajc.com)

As what was then known as House Bill 481 made its way through Georgia’s legislative process in 2019, abortion rights activists repeatedly said that enacting new restrictions would disproportionately affect Black women.

That prediction looks to be coming true, with state Department of Public Health data showing that Black women were the only single-race demographic group to get fewer abortions in 2022 than in 2021. Black women still received the procedure at a higher rate in Georgia than any other racial group.

Abortions in Georgia overall increased slightly in 2022, despite the state’s more-restrictive law being in place for nearly half of the year. The law, which took effect in July 2022, bans the procedure in most instances once a doctor can detect fetal cardiac activity, which is often about six weeks into a pregnancy and before many know they are pregnant.

The number of Georgia residents receiving abortions last year increased for the fifth consecutive year. DPH officials say the public OASIS online portal includes all reported abortions performed on Georgia residents, whether the procedure was done in the state or elsewhere.

While overall numbers increased last year, 22,433 Black Georgians received abortions, down from 23,434 in 2021 — about 4.2%. Black Georgians getting abortions accounted for 63% of the more than 35,000 performed last year.

Monica Simpson, executive director at the SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective, said the numbers don’t shine any light on why fewer Black women got abortions last year. For example, Simpson said she’s spoken with many people who think that abortion was outlawed completely after the U.S. Supreme Court in June 2022 overturned Roe v. Wade — a 1973 ruling that guaranteed access to the procedure nationally.

Others may not realize they are pregnant before cardiac activity is detected, she said. DPH records showed earlier this year that doctors detected cardiac activity as early as four weeks into a pregnancy.

“What we do know is that when you restrict or remove or take away access, it’s going to affect those who have historically been in the margins,” she said.

Judah Metzger, 14, stands with a poster outside of an abortion clinic in Forest Park in July. (Olivia Bowdoin for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Olivia Bowdoin

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Credit: Olivia Bowdoin

Abortions rose in all other racial demographics, according to DPH data. The number of abortions performed on white women increased by 238, or 3.6%. Abortions performed on Asian women increased by 128, or 13.8%.

Abortions among women who identify as native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander increased 14.3%, or six more procedures between 2021 and 2022. Native American women had the highest year-over-year increase in abortions performed at 32.5%, but the number only increased by 27.

People who identified as being “multiracial” were the only other tracked racial group that had fewer abortions last year, declining by 93, or 13.6%.

Simpson, who is Black, said anti-abortion activists have pointed to the high number of Black women getting abortions as a reason the community should oppose the procedure.

Cole Muzio, who runs the conservative Norcross-based Frontline Policy Action and lobbied in support of the law, said the goal was to make abortion difficult for anyone to get. But he said he was happy to see some shift in who was getting them.

“I’m excited there are more Black babies being born in our state,” Muzio said. “I think the abortion industry has targeted and harmed communities of color, and I really am hopeful and excited that these children are able to be born and seek opportunities in our state and get a chance at life.”