Primary nationwide abortion statistics for the United States are available from two sources—privately from the Guttmacher Institute (AGI) and publicly from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Guttmacher’s numbers, published every three years, come from direct surveys of all known and suspected abortion providers in the United States. The CDC numbers, published annually, are derived from actual counts of every abortion reported to state health departments. Unfortunately, California, Maryland, and New Hampshire do not publicly report abortion totals. As such, Guttmacher’s abortion numbers are more complete, but they are approximations. Since only 59% of queried providers responded to Guttmacher’s latest survey, health department data was used for an additional 19%. Abortion totals were estimated for the remaining 22%.
All told, Guttmacher states that 89% of their 2017 abortion total was based on actual abortion counts. The remaining 11% was estimated. “It is possible,” Guttmacher concedes, “that we consistently underestimated or overestimated these caseloads, which would mean that our count is inaccurate.” The information on this page has been gleaned from Guttmacher and the CDC—along with public state health department data—to provide an overview of the frequency and demography of abortion. Additional secondary statistics have been taken from the National Abortion Federation’s (NAF) teaching text on abortion, Management of Unintended and Abnormal Pregnancy: Comprehensive Abortion Care.
ANNUAL ABORTION STATISTICS
- Based on available state-level data, approximately 876,000 abortions took place in the United States in 2018.
- According to the Guttmacher Institute, an estimated 862,320 abortions took place in the United States in 2017—down from 926,240 in 2014. Guttmacher’s selected annual abortion estimates for the last 20+ years are listed below:
2017 2014 2011 2008 2005 2002 2000 1996 862,320 926,240 1,060,000 1,210,000 1,210,000 1,290,000 1,310,000 1,360,000
- Based on available state-level data, approximately 890,000 abortions took place in the United States in 2016—down from approximately 913,000 abortions in 2015.
- In 2017, approximately 18% of U.S. pregnancies (excluding spontaneous miscarriages) ended in abortion.1
- According to the United Nations’ 2013 report, only nine countries in the world have a higher reported abortion rate than the United States. They are: Bulgaria, Cuba, Estonia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Romania, Russia, Sweden, and Ukraine.*
*Though the UN lists China’s official abortion rate at 19.2, China’s actual abortion rate is likely much higher. According to China’s 2010 census, there were approximately 310 million women of reproductive age in the country. An estimated 13-23 million abortions happen annually in China, resulting in an adjusted abortion rate of 41.9-74.2. The abortion rate is the number of abortions per 1,000 women aged 15-44.
- In 2017, the highest percentage of pregnancies were aborted in the District of Columbia (37%), New Jersey (32%), and New York (31%). The lowest percentage of pregnancies were aborted in Idaho (5%), South Dakota (4%), and Wyoming (2%). (AGI abortion data + CDC birth data).
- In 2016, approximately 34% of all pregnancies in New York City (excluding spontaneous miscarriages) ended in abortion (CDC).
- The annual number of legal induced abortions in the United States doubled between 1973 and 1979, and peaked in 1990 (CDC).
- From 2015 to 2016, the number and rate2 of reported abortions decreased by 2%. The abortion ratio3 decreased by 1% (CDC).
- More than 60 million legal abortions have occurred in the United States since 1973.
WHO HAS ABORTIONS?
- In 2016, unmarried women accounted for 86% of all abortions (CDC).
- Among married women, 4% of 2016 pregnancies (excluding spontaneous miscarriages) ended in abortion. Among unmarried women, 28% ended in abortion (CDC).
- Women in their 20s accounted for the majority of abortions in 2016 and had the highest abortion rates (CDC).
- Adolescents under 15 years obtained .03% of all 2016 abortions; women aged 15–19 years accounted for less than 10% (CDC).
- Percentage of 2016 Reported Abortions by Age of Mother (CDC):
<15 years 15–19 years 20–24 years 25–29 years 30–34 years 35–39 years ≥40 years 0.3% 9.4% 30.0% 28.5% 18.0% 10.3% 3.5%
- Women living with a partner to whom they are not married account for 25% of abortions but only about 10% of women in the population (NAF).
- In 2016, women who had not aborted in the past accounted for 57% of all abortions; women with one or two prior abortions accounted for 35%, and women with three or more prior abortions accounted for 8% (CDC).
- Among women who obtained abortions in 2016, 41% had no prior live births; 45% had one or two prior live births, and 14% had three or more prior live births (CDC).
- Among white women, 10% of 2016 pregnancies (excluding spontaneous miscarriages) ended in abortion. Among black women, 29% ended in abortion (CDC).
- Black women were more than 3.5 times more likely to have an abortion in 2016 than white women (CDC).
- The abortion rate of non-metropolitan women is about half that of women who live in metropolitan counties (NAF).
- The abortion rate of women with Medicaid coverage is three times as high as that of other women (NAF).
- In 2014, 30% of aborting women identified themselves as Protestant and 24% identified themselves as Catholic (AGI).
WHY DO ABORTIONS OCCUR?
- In 2004, the Guttmacher Institute anonymously surveyed 1,209 post-abortive women from nine different abortion clinics across the country. Of the women surveyed, 957 provided a main reason for having an abortion. This table lists each reason and the percentage of respondents who chose it.
Percentage Reason <0.5% Victim of rape 3% Fetal health problems 4% Physical health problems 4% Would interfere with education or career 7% Not mature enough to raise a child 8% Don’t want to be a single mother 19% Done having children 23% Can’t afford a baby 25% Not ready for a child 6% Other
- The state of Florida records a reason for every abortion that occurs within its borders each year. In 2018, there were 70,083 abortions in Florida. This table lists each reason and the percentage of abortions that occurred because of it.
Percentage Reason .01% The pregnancy resulted from an incestuous relationship .14% The woman was raped .27% The woman’s life was endangered by the pregnancy 1.0% There was a serious fetal abnormality 1.48% The woman’s physical health was threatened by the pregnancy 1.67% The woman’s psychological health was threatened by the pregnancy 20.0% The woman aborted for social or economic reasons 75.4% No reason (elective)
WHEN DO ABORTIONS OCCUR?
- In 2016, 88% of all abortions happened during the first trimester, prior to the 13th week of gestation (CDC).
- In 2016, 10% of all abortions occurred between 13-20 weeks’ gestation; 1.2% occurred ≥21 weeks’ gestation (CDC).
- Percentage of 2016 Reported Abortions by Weeks of Gestation* (CDC):
≤6 wks 7 wks 8 wks 9 wks 10 wks 11 wks 12 wks 13 wks 14-15 wks 16-17 wks 18-20 wks ≥21 wks 34.5% 17.7% 13.4% 9.2% 5.6% 4.6% 3.4% 2.7% 3.6% 2.1% 1.9% 1.2%
*Gestational weeks are measured from the first day of the woman’s last menstruation and not from the day of conception. Though it does not provide an accurate fetal age (which is roughly 2 weeks less than the gestational age), it is the simplest way for an OB/GYN to age a pregnancy since the day of conception is often not known. Hence, if an abortion occurs at 8 weeks gestation, it is actually aborting a 6 week embryo. The images on our Prenatal Development and Abortion Pictures pages are more precisely captioned with fetal ages in accordance with standard teaching texts on prenatal development.
HOW DOES ABORTION TAKE PLACE?
- In 2017, medical abortions accounted for 39% of all abortions (AGI).
- In 2016, 69% of reported abortions were accomplished by curettage (which includes dilatation and evacuation). Most curettage abortions are suction procedures (CDC).
- Medical abortions made up approximately 31% of all abortions reported in 2016 (CDC).
- Ninety-six per cent of the more than 140,000 second-trimester abortions that occur annually in the USA are accomplished by dilation and evacuation (D&E) (NAF).
WHO IS DOING THE ABORTIONS?
- In 2017, abortions were performed in 1,587 different facilities, a 5% decline from 2014. (AGI).
- In 2017, there were 808 abortion clinics in the United States, a 2% increase from 2014.
- Between 2014 and 2017, the number of hospitals performing abortions declined by 19%, from 638 to 518 (AGI).
- In 2017, 72% of U.S. abortion clinics performed abortion through 12 weeks’ gestation, 25% performed abortion through 20 weeks, and 10% performed abortion through 24 weeks (AGI).
- In 2014, 4% of U.S. abortions occured in hospitals; 1% occured in physician’s offices. The other 95% occured in freestanding abortion clinics—without any established doctor-patient relationship (AGI).
- In 2015, two women were reported to have died as a result of complications from induced abortion. Between 1973-2015, a reported 439 women died due to complications from legal abortion (CDC).
- The number of deaths attributable to legal induced abortion was highest before the 1980s (CDC).
- In 1972 (the year before abortion was federally legalized), a total of 24 women died from causes known to be associated with legal abortions, and 39 died as a result of known illegal abortions (CDC).
THE COST OF ABORTION
- In 2014, the average cost of a nonhospital abortion with local anesthesia at 10 weeks of gestation was $508. The average cost of a medical abortion up to nine weeks of gestation was $535 (AGI).
ABORTION AND CONTRACEPTION
- Induced abortions usually result from unintended pregnancies, which often occur despite the use of contraception (CDC).
- In 2014, 51% of women having abortions used birth control during the month they became pregnant. (AGI).
- 9 in 10 women at risk of unintended pregnancy are using a birth control method (AGI).
- Oral contraceptives, the most widely used reversible method of contraception, carry failure rates of 6 to 8% in actual practice (NAF).
ABORTION AND MINORS
- 40% of minors having an abortion report that neither of their parents knew about the abortion (AGI).
- 39 states currently enforce parental consent or notification laws for minors seeking an abortion: AL, AK, AR, AZ, CO, DE, FL, GA, IA, ID, IL, IN, KS, KY, LA, MA, MD, MI, MN, MO, MS, MT, NC, ND, NE, NH, OH, OK, PA, RI, SC, SD, TN, TX, UT, VA, WI, WV, and WY. The Supreme Court ruled that minors must have the alternative of seeking a court order authorizing the procedure (AGI).
ABORTION AND PUBLIC FUNDS
- The U.S. Congress has barred the use of federal Medicaid funds to pay for abortions, except when the woman’s life would be endangered by a full-term pregnancy or in cases of rape or incest (AGI).
- 17 states (AK, AZ, CA, CT, HI, IL, MA, MD, MN, MT, NJ, NM, NY, OR, VT, WA and WV) use public funds to pay for abortions for some poor women. About 14% of all abortions in the United States are paid for with public funds—virtually all from the state (AGI).
- In 2014, 88,466 abortions in California were paid for with public funds. Public funds paid for 45,722 abortions in New York (AGI).