Incidence of Legal Induced Abortions

Incidence of Legal Induced Abortions

Monica Preboth

In 1997, 1,184,758 legal induced abortions were reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), according to a report published in the January 7, 2000 issue of Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR). Data were compiled about legal induced abortions from the 50 states, New York City and the District of Columbia. While the total number of legal induced abortions was available from all reporting areas, not all of the areas collected information about the characteristics of women who obtained abortions. Therefore, this report presents only preliminary data for 1997. The final 1997 abortion data will be published during summer 2000.

In the United States from 1980 through 1990, the number of legal induced abortions increased overall by 10 percent. The highest number of legal abortions was reported in 1990. Since that time, the number of abortions has decreased each year by 2 to 5 percent, except in 1995 and 1996, when the number of abortions increased by 0.9 percent. The number of abortions reported to the CDC for 1997 declined from the year before and is the lowest recorded number since 1978.

In 1997, the number of live births decreased by 0.3 percent from 1996. The number of reported abortions decreased in 34 of the 52 reporting areas. The number of legal abortions per 1,000 live births reported by all reporting areas decreased from 314 in 1996 to 305 in 1997. About 20 per 1,000 women between 15 and 44 years of age had abortions in 1997.

The majority of women who obtained legal abortions in 1997 were white and unmarried. In 98 percent of abortions, curettage was used to end the pregnancy; 18 reporting areas submitted information about nonsurgical medical abortions.

In 1997, the total numbers of legal induced abortions were available for all 52 reporting areas. However, about 32 percent of abortions were reported from states that did not have annual centralized reporting of abortions or from states whose health departments could not provide information about characteristics of women who obtained legal abortions. According to the CDC, to track changes in abortion practice, each state needs an accurate and ongoing assessment of abortion (including the number and characteristics of women who obtain legal abortions).

Previously published MMWRs that include statistical and epidemiologic information about abortion are available on the CDC Web site (

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