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December 21, 2012 Print

Abortion Statistics

by Carrie Gordon Earll

How many abortions have occurred in the U.S. since legalization in 1973? What are some characteristics of women who have abortions?

It’s estimated that around one million abortions take place annually and more than 50 million abortions have been performed in the U.S. since 1973 (based on accumulative data from the two primary sources of U.S. abortion statistics – Centers for Disease Control and Alan Guttmacher Institute).

Reported number of legal abortions in the United States for selected years according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Abortion Surveillance Report 2009:

1972 — 586,760

1973 — 615,831

1980 — 1,297,606

1985 — 1,328,570

1990 — 1,429,247

1992 — 1,359,146

1995 — 1,210,883

1996 — 1,225,937

1997 — 1,186,039

*1998 — 884,273

*1999 — 861,789

*2000 — 857,475

*2001 — 853,485

*2002 — 854,122

*2003 — 848,163

*2004 — 839,226

*2005 — 820,151

*2006 — 846,181

*2007  - 827,609

*2008  -  825,564

*2009  -  784,507

*At first glance, the table listed above appears to show a considerable drop in the number of reported abortions performed in the U.S. between 1997 and 1998. Upon closer examination, however, the decrease is more moderate.

Here’s why: In 1998 and 1999, the number of abortions reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) excluded data from four states – Alaska, California, New Hampshire and Oklahoma – that did not provide information. Data from Oklahoma were included in the 2000-2003 statistics. In order to compare reported abortions in 1997 to the subsequent years, the CDC recalculated abortion totals for 1995, 1996 and 1997, minus these non-reporting states. The adjusted numbers of reported abortions are as follows:

Year
1995
1996
1997
1998
1999
2000
2001
2002
2003
2004
2005
2006
2007
2008
2009
Reported Abortions
908,243
934,549
900,171
884,273
861,789
857,475
853,485
854,122
848,163
839,226
820,151
846,181
827,609
825,564
784,507
Change from Previous Year
unavailable
3% increase
3.5% decrease
2% decrease
2.5% decrease
0.5% decrease
0.5% decrease
0.1% increase
0.7% decrease
1.1% decrease
2.3% decrease
3.1% increase
2.2% decrease
No change
5% decrease

The CDC attributes the majority of the decrease in reported abortions after 1997 to the absence of California’s data. In 1997, the CDC estimated the number of abortions in California to be 275,700. The CDC acknowledges that the numbers of abortions reported to the agency are probably lower than the actual number performed. The lack of uniform, mandatory abortion reporting for all fifty states hampers the CDC’s ability to accurately report the number of abortion performed in the U.S, as evidenced in the 1998 to 2009 reports.

According to the CDC report, in 2009:

  • 40 percent women who had abortions in the U.S. had no other children
  • 44 percent of women who had abortions in the U.S. had at least one previous abortion
  • 85 percent of women who had abortions in the U.S. were unmarried
  • Almost half of abortions are among women and teens 24-years old and younger

According to the Guttmacher Institute, the research arm of the nation’s leading abortion seller, Planned Parenthood:

  • At current rates, an estimated 1/3 of American women will have an abortion by the age of 45
  • About 13,000 abortions each year are attributed to rape and incest—representing 1 percent of all abortions

This page was originally posted on September 9, 2003.

Carrie Gordon Earll is the Senior Policy Analyst for Bioethics at CitizenLink (an affiliate of Focus on the Family) and a fellow with the Center for Bioethics and Human Dignity.



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