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U.S. Abortion Rate at Lowest Level Since 2002

U.S. Abortion Rate at Lowest Level Since 2002

December 1, 2014 — Fewer abortions were performed in the U.S. in 2011 than any time since CDC began tracking national data in 2002, according to a new study, the Washington Times reports (Wetzstein, Washington Times, 11/27).

The CDC report included data from 49 of 52 areas: Washington, D.C., New York City, and all states except California, Maryland and New Hampshire, because those states did not voluntarily report the statistics. The data were gathered from the areas' central health agencies. In most of the areas, abortion providers are legally required to report statistics on the procedure (Rubenfire, Modern Healthcare, 11/26).

Abortion Statistics

CDC said 2011 marked "historic lows for all three measures of abortion": the absolute number of procedures, abortions as a share of pregnancies and the abortion rate (Washington Times, 11/27). According to the report, 730,322 abortion procedures were reported in 2011, a decline of 4.6% from 2010. Among 46 areas that have reported statistics continuously since 2002, there were 13.9 abortions per 1,000 women ages 15 to 44 in 2011, a 5% decline from 2010. Meanwhile, 219 abortions were performed per every 1,000 live births that occurred, down 4% from 2010.

According to Modern Healthcare, the number of abortions in the U.S. has declined each year since CDC began tracking the data in 2002, except for 2006 because of a reporting anomaly and more agencies beginning to report such statistics that year.

Abortion Methods

According to the report, about 71% of the abortions performed in 2011 were surgical and before 13 weeks of gestation. Another 8.6% of the abortions were performed surgically after 13 weeks of gestation.

A little more than 19% of abortions were early medication abortions performed before eight weeks of gestation. The report noted that 28.5% of pregnancies that qualified for early medication abortion were terminated that way and that the total number of such procedures increased by 3% from 2010.

The report noted that 64.5% of all abortions performed in 2011 occurred before eight weeks of gestation and that the number of abortions performed by eight weeks increased by 6% from 2002 (Modern Healthcare, 11/26). According to the report, 91% of all abortion procedures occurred before 13 weeks' gestation. Meanwhile, 7.3% of abortions were performed between 14 and 20 weeks of gestation, while 1.4% were performed after 20 weeks.

Overall, CDC said it seems that "women are obtaining abortions earlier in gestation, when the risks for complications are the lowest" (Washington Times, 11/27).

Demographic Findings

The report noted that women ages 20 to 29 accounted for the majority of the abortions performed in 2011. Specifically, women ages 20 to 24 accounted for 32.9% of the abortions performed, while women ages 25 to 29 accounted for 24.9% of the procedures. According to the report, abortion rates for women ages 20 to 24 decreased by 21% from 2002 to 2011, while abortion rates for women ages 25 to 29 decreased by 16% over the same period.

Meanwhile, the abortion rate among teenagers dropped more than for any other age group, although the abortion rate for that age group was among the highest of all age groups in 2011 and from 2002 to 2011. Specifically, the number of abortions performed from 2002 to 2011 for girls ages 19 or younger decreased by 21%, while the abortion rate for that age group dropped 34% during that time. Girls ages 15 to 19 accounted for 13.5% of all abortions performed in 2011, with a rate of 10.5 abortions per 1,000 girls in that age group. Girls under age 15 accounted for 0.4% of all abortions, with a rate of 0.9 abortions per 1,000 girls in that age group.

The report also noted that among the 27 areas of the U.S. that provided ethnicity and racial data, non-Hispanic black women had the highest abortion rate, at 29.7 abortions per 1,000 women ages 15 to 44. The abortion ratio was also the highest among that group, at 459 abortions performed for every 1,000 live births that occurred. Meanwhile, non-Hispanic Caucasian women had the lowest abortion rate and ratio, with eight abortions per 1,000 women of childbearing age and 132 abortions per 1,000 live births (Modern Healthcare, 11/26).

Reasons for Decline

Analysts said the abortion rate decline could be linked to economic concerns stemming from the recent recession. Women since 2008 have cited the recession as motivation to avoid unwanted pregnancies because of the cost of raising children. Further, more women are using effective contraceptives (Craft, "Healthy Choices," Sacramento Bee, 11/30).