Abortion in the United States
Incidence of Abortion
- 49% of pregnancies among American women are unintended; almost half of these are terminated by abortion.
- In 2000, 1.31 million abortions took place, down from an estimated 1.36 million in 1996. From 1973 through 2000, more than 39 million legal abortions occurred.
- Each year, 2 out of every 100 women aged 15–44 have an abortion; 48% of them have had at least one previous abortion and 61% have had a previous birth.
- An estimated 43% of women will have at least one abortion by the time they are 45 years old.
- Each year, an estimated 46 million abortions occur worldwide. Of these, 20 million procedures are obtained illegally.
Who Has Abortions
- 52% of U.S. women obtaining abortions are younger than 25: Women aged 20–24 obtain 33% of all abortions, and teenagers obtain 19%.
- Black women are more than three times as likely as white women to have an abortion, and Hispanic women are two-and-a-half times as likely.
- 43% of women obtaining abortions identify themselves as Protestant, and 27% identify themselves as Catholic.
- Two-thirds of all abortions are among never-married women.
- More than 60% of abortions are among women who have had one or more children.
- On average, women give at least three reasons for choosing abortion: three-fourths say that having a baby would interfere with work, school, or other responsibilities; about two-thirds say they cannot afford a child; and half say they do not want to be a single parent or are having problems with their husband or partner.
- About 13,000 women have abortions each year following rape or incest.
- 54% of women having abortions used a contraceptive method during the month they became pregnant.
- 8% of women having abortions have never used a method of birth control; nonuse is greatest among those who are young, unmarried, poor, black, Hispanic, or poorly educated.
- Nine in ten women at risk of unintended pregnancy are using a contraceptive method.
- 49% of the 6.3 million pregnancies that occur each year are unplanned.
- As much as 43% of the decline in abortion between 1994 and 2000 can be attributed to the use of emergency contraception.
Providers and Services
- In September 2000, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the abortion drug mifepristone to be marketed in the U.S. as an alternative to surgical abortion.
- The number of abortion providers declined by 11% between 1996 and 2000 (from 2,042 to 1,819). 87% of all U.S. counties lacked an abortion provider in 2000. These counties were home to 34% of all 15–44-year-old women.
- 97% of abortion facilities provide abortion at eight weeks, and 86% provide services at 12 weeks, but provision drops off steeply after that, with only 13% of providers offering services at 24 weeks.
- A growing proportion of providers offers very early abortion (at four weeks gestation), an increase from 7% in 1993 to 37% in 2000.
- In 2000, the cost of a nonhospital abortion with local anesthesia at ten weeks of gestation ranged from $150 to $4,000, and the average amount paid was $372.
- Approximately 600 providers offered medical abortion in the first half of 2001.
- About 37,000 medical abortions were performed in the first half of 2001; these procedures involved the use of mifepristone and methotrexate.
- In nonhospital facilities offering mifepristone for use in medical abortion in 2000, the average cost of medical abortion was $490.
Safety of Abortion
- The risk of abortion complications is minimal; less than one percent of all abortion patients experience a major complication, such as serious pelvic infection, hemorrhage requiring a blood transfusion or unintended major surgery.
- There is no evidence of childbearing problems among women who have had a vacuum aspiration abortion, the most common procedure, within the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.
- The risk of death associated with abortion increases with the length of pregnancy, from one death for every 500,000 abortions at 8 or fewer weeks to one per 27,000 at 16–20 weeks and 1 per 8,000 at 21 or more weeks.
- The risk of death associated with childbirth is about ten times as high as that associated with abortion.
- Almost half of the women having abortions beyond 15 weeks of gestation say they were delayed because of problems in affording, finding or getting to abortion services.
- Teens are more likely than older women to delay having an abortion until after 15 weeks of pregnancy, when medical risks associated with abortion increase significantly.
Law and Policy
- In the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, the Supreme Court ruled that women, in consultation with their physician, have a constitutionally protected right to have an abortion in the early stages of pregnancy—that is, before viability—free from government interference.
- In 1992, the Court upheld the right to abortion in Planned Parenthood v. Casey. However, the ruling significantly weakened the legal protections previously afforded women and physicians by giving states the right to enact restrictions that do not create an “undue burden” for women seeking abortion.
- The most common restrictions in effect are parental involvement requirements, mandatory counseling and waiting periods, and limitations on public funding.
- 32 states currently enforce parental consent or notification laws for minors seeking an abortion: Ala., Ark., Del., Ga., Iowa, Idaho, Ind., Kan., Ky., La., Mass., Md., Mich., Minn., Mo., Miss., N.C., N.D., Neb., Ohio, Okla., Pa., R.I., S.C., S.D., Tenn., Texas, Utah, Va., Wis., W.Va., and Wyo. The Supreme Court ruled that minors must have the alternative of seeking a court order authorizing the procedure.
- 45% of minors who have abortions tell their parents, and 61% undergo the procedure with at least one parent's knowledge. The great majority of parents support their daughter's decision.
- In Steinberg v. Carhart in 2000, the Court declared Nebraska's law criminalizing so-called partial birth abortion unconstitutional because it lacked an exception to protect the woman's health. The court also found that the law imposed an undue burden on women because it was written so broadly as to ban not only dilation and extraction (D & X) procedures, but also dilation and evacuation (D & E) procedures.
- In 2000, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the abortion drug mifepristone to be marketed in the United States as an alternative to surgical abortion.
- The U.S. Congress has barred the use of federal Medicaid funds to pay for abortions, except when the woman's life would be endangered by a full-term pregnancy or in cases of rape or incest.
- About 14% of all abortions in the United States are paid for with public funds, virtually all of which are state funds. 17 states (Ala., Ariz., Calif., Conn., Hawaii, Ill., Mass., Md., Minn., Mont., N.J., N.M., N.Y., Ore., Vt., Wash., W.Va.) pay for abortions for some poor women.
- Without publicly funded family planning services, an estimated 1.3 million additional unplanned pregnancies would occur annually; about 632,300 would end in abortion.
Alan Guttmacher Institute, Induced Abortion, Facts in Brief,
2002. Web: www.guttmacher.org
. Reprinted with permission.
Information Please® Database, © 2007 Pearson Education, Inc. All rights reserved.
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