Abortion Facts and Statistics in the 21st Century

Essential Abortion Information for Pro-Life and Pro-Choice Advocates

Protesters on both sides of the abortion issue gather

Getty Images/Mark Wilson

The pro-life/pro-choice debate has raged for years, but facts and figures can better put it into perspective. Both the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Guttmacher Institute, which handles research for the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, collect and analyze abortion data. The statistics gathered can improve the public's understanding of the ongoing controversies related to reproductive rights. 

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Unintended Pregnancies Account for About Half of all Pregnancies

CNN has reported that between 2006 and 2010, 51% of U.S. pregnancies were unintended, but this figure is actually dropping. It was only 45% during the period from 2009 through 2013. The study of almost 2,000 pregnancies was conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

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About One Percent of Pregnancies Ends in Abortion

The CDC also found that 11.6 abortions were performed per every 1,000 women in 2016, the last year for which comprehensive statistics are available. This was down 5% from the previous year. A total of 623,471 abortions, a record low, were reported to the CDC in 2016.

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Nearly Half of Women Seeking Abortions Have Already Ended a Pregnancy

Forty-eight percent of abortion patients were found to have had one or more abortions previously. This 2013 rate was the lowest since 2004. The number of abortions dropped by 20% in that time period, while the abortion rate dropped 21% and the ratio of abortions to live births dropped 17% to 200 abortions per 1,000 live births. 

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Over Half of Women Choosing Abortions are Under Age 25

Teenagers accounted for 19% of the abortions reported in 2009, and women age 20 to 24 accounted for 33%, according to People Concerned for the Unborn Child, a pro-life organization. This, too, is changing, however slightly. The rate for women under age 20 fell to 18% by 2013. 

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Women of Color Are More Likely Than White Women to Get Abortions

Black women are almost four times as likely as white women to terminate a pregnancy, while Hispanic women are 2.5 times as likely as white women to get an abortion. Non-Hispanic white women accounted for 36% of abortions in 2013.

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Unmarried Women Account for Two-Thirds of All Abortion Recipients

Overall, the abortion rate among unmarried women was 85% in 2009, according to the CDC. This figure remained about the same in 2013, but society's attitudes about out-of-wedlock pregnancies have rapidly evolved since the mid-20th century when single pregnant women were shunned, sent away, or quickly married off. Today, being pregnant and unmarried no longer carries the same stigma, but single parenting remains a challenging undertaking when it comes to childcare or paying for a child's expenses.

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Most Women Who Choose Abortions Are Mothers

Women with one or more children comprise 59% of abortion patients. Nearly a quarter of all women will have an abortion by the age of 45. While young women are most likely to terminate a pregnancy, abortion is a choice women of all ages make throughout their reproductive years, which typically span from the early teens to the mid-40s.

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The Vast Majority of Abortions Take Place in the First Trimester

In 2013, the CDC found that 91.6% of abortions took place during the first 13-weeks gestation period. Just 1.2% of abortions take place past the 21-week mark. That means late-term terminations remain rare, even though they're often topics of discussion during the abortion debate.

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Almost Half of All Women Having Abortions Live Under the Federal Poverty Line

About 42% of women having abortions lived under the poverty line in 2013, and an additional 27% had incomes within 200% of the federal poverty line. This totals 69% of low-income women. The link between socioeconomic status and abortion has yet to disappear.

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Americans' Opinions Are Changing

According to a 2015 Gallup poll, more Americans reported being pro-choice than they did seven years earlier in 2008. Fifty percent of those surveyed were pro-choice, compared to 44 percent who opposed abortion. Fifty-four percent of the pro-choice group were women, compared to 46% men who were. The anti-abortion faction led by 9% in May 2012. Gallup did directly not ask those polled whether they opposed or supported abortion but deduced their positions based on their answers to a series of questions.

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Lowen, Linda. "Abortion Facts and Statistics in the 21st Century." ThoughtCo, Jul. 31, 2021, thoughtco.com/abortion-facts-and-statistics-3534189. Lowen, Linda. (2021, July 31). Abortion Facts and Statistics in the 21st Century. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/abortion-facts-and-statistics-3534189 Lowen, Linda. "Abortion Facts and Statistics in the 21st Century." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/abortion-facts-and-statistics-3534189 (accessed May 31, 2023).