Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Abortion numbers

The CDC publishes "abortion surveillance" documents, with data on indicidence and location of abortion. The most recent data available are for 2001. Some numbers:
  • In 2001, there were 246 legal induced abortions per 1000 live births. That is, approximately 20 percent (246/1246) of pregnancies end in induced abortions. This number is too high insofar as about 10 to 15 percent of pregnancies end in spontaneous abortions. If you are pregnant, then, you have about a 10 to 15 percent chance of a miscarriage. The above numbers refer to pregnancies that don't (or hadn't yet) miscarried. So of all pregnancies more like 17 or 18 percent are terminated in induced abortion.
  • Taking a historical perspective: in 1973, there were 196 legal induced abortions per 1000 live births. The number peaked at 364 legal induced abortions per 1000 live births in 1984 and has since declined.
  • The ratio is as low as 36 per 1000 in Idaho and as high as 767 per 1000 in New York City (New York City and Washington DC are the only two non-states to report separate statistics). In fact, New York City had the most abortions of any reporting region: more than Florida and Texas (California did not report data in 2001; presumably data for California is imputed from previous data).
  • "The abortion ratio for black women (491 per 1,000 live births) was 3.0 times the ratio for white women (165 per 1,000), and the ratio for women of the nonhomogenous "other" race category (376 per 1,000) was 2.3 times the ratio for white women."
  • "For women whose marital status was adequately reported (39 reporting areas), 79% of women who obtained abortions were known to be unmarried."
  • "For women who obtained an abortion and whose number of previous abortions was adequately reported (39 reporting areas), 55% were reported to have obtained an abortion for the first time, and 18% were reported to have had at least two previous abortions."
The major caveat:
the overall number, ratio, and rate of abortions are conservative estimates; the total numbers of legal induced abortions provided by central health agencies and reported to CDC for 2001 were probably lower than the numbers actually performed. Additionally, the abortion total for 2000 provided to CDC by central health agencies are 20% lower than that reported for 2000 (the most recent year for which data are available) for the same reporting areas by The Alan Guttmacher Institute, a private organization that contacts abortion providers directly. A previous report documented a discrepancy of approximately 12%; the reasons for this larger discrepancy are unclear.


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