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Advocates for Life

Centers for Disease Control Abortion Surveillance Report Shows Little Change in U.S. Abortion

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control recently released its Abortion Surveillance 2018 report, and the data, while less than fully reliable, suggest that the abortion rate in the country has plateaued in recent years. 

In 2018, 619,591 legal induced abortions were reported to CDC from 49 reporting areas. Among 48 reporting areas with data each year during 2009–2018, in 2018, a total of 614,820 abortions were reported, the abortion rate was 11.3 abortions per 1,000 women aged 15–44 years, and the abortion ratio was 189 abortions per 1,000 live births. 

It should always be borne in mind that the CDC abortion data is incomplete, as a number of states – including some of the most abortion-friendly states such as California and New York – do not report data regularly to the CDC. The CDC surveillance thus ends up being essentially a well-educated guess at abortion incidence – better than nothing, but far short of ideal. 

From 2009 to 2018, the number, rate, and ratio of reported abortions decreased 22%, 24%, and 16%, respectively. In 2017, the total number, rate, and ratio of reported abortions decreased to historic lows for the period of analysis for all three measures. However, compared with 2017, in 2018, the total number and rate of reported abortions increased by 1%, and the abortion ratio increased by 2%. 

Similar to previous years, in 2018, women in their twenties accounted for the majority of abortions (57.7%). The majority of abortions in 2018 took place early in gestation: 92.2% of abortions were performed at ≤13 weeks’ gestation; a smaller number of abortions (6.9%) were performed at 14–20 weeks’ gestation, and even fewer (1.0%) were performed at ≥21 weeks’ gestation. Early medical abortion is defined as the administration of medications(s) to induce an abortion at ≤9 completed weeks’ gestation, consistent with the current U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) labeling for mifepristone (implemented in 2016). One big takeaway from the CDC report is the strong increase in RU-486 abortion; in 2018, 38.6% of all abortions were early chemical abortions (a nonsurgical abortion at ≤9 weeks’ gestation). Use of chemical abortion increased 9% from 2017 to 2018 and 120% from 2009 to 2018.  

The CDC’s newly released data reveals a decline of nearly 12% in the overall percentage of abortions among Black women from 2016 to 2018. The report, based on 31 reporting areas to the CDC (350,124 abortions) for race/ethnicity, shows that abortions among Black women dropped from a recent high of 38% in 2016 to nearly 34% in 2018. Black Americans made up 12.1% of the population but accounted for 33.6% of abortions, for an estimated 208,183 abortions in 2018. In 2018, there were 21.2 abortions per 1,000 Black women aged 15–44 years and 335 abortions per 1,000 live births. 

Hispanic Americans made up 18.4% of the population but accounted for 20% of abortions, for an estimated 123,918 abortions in 2018. In 2018, there were 10.9 abortions per 1,000 Hispanic women aged 15–44 years and 335 abortions per 1,000 live births.