Abortion Facts & Statistics


Abortion Facts, Statistics and Methods

Learning the facts about abortion can be transformative for those who support abortion. Knowing the facts and figures is necessary for those who want to change hearts and minds about abortion. Finally, understanding abortion is needed for productive dialogue, discussion and debate.

Below is an overview of the most fundamental facts. For a more in depth look, be sure to follow the links provided in each section.

Abortion Statistics

While this is a pro-life website, we’ve gone to great lengths to find unbiased sources for the information below. Using bad information only hurts our case. Complete datasets on abortion statistics are hard to come by, so we do the best we can with what is available. For these reasons, we generally look to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the Guttmacher Institute as sources.

The Guttmacher Institute is considered the research arm of Planned Parenthood and is clearly not on the pro-life side. The CDC abortion data is generally considered an unbiased source for this information but it is also known to be incomplete because states are not federally mandated to report their abortion statistics. For instance, states like California, Maryland, and New Hampshire, as well as large cities like Washington, DC have not reported their abortion statistics in years.

How many abortions are performed in the United States each year?

According to the Guttmacher Institute, there were 926,200 abortions performed in the United States in 2014. They have not yet released their 2015 numbers. On average, that is 2,537 abortions each day. This is a 12% reduction since 2011. [1]

The CDC has released numbers for 2015, and they reported 638,139 abortions that year. They reported 652,639 abortions in 2014. Historically, CDC estimates have only reflected a little over 2/3 of Guttmacher Institute data. The actual number of abortions in 2015, then, was likely closer to 915,000.

What is the current trend in incidence of abortion?

The number of abortions and the rate of abortion in the United States has been declining in recent years following the huge spike in abortions after abortion was legalized in 1973.

1996 – 1.36 million abortions

2000 – 1.31 million abortions

2002 – 1.29 million abortions

2005 – 1.2 million abortions

2008 – 1.21 million abortions

2011 – 1.06 million abortions

2015- 638,169 abortions


How many abortions have been performed in the united States since it was legalized nationwide?

Abortion was legalized nationwide by the Supreme Court in the 1973 decision, Roe v. Wade. Since then there have been approximately 53 million abortions performed in the United States. By now there have been more than 60 million. [1]

How old are women having abortions?

Here are the percentage of total abortions by age group followed by the approximate number of abortions as of 2014:

Abortions for Women Less than 15 years:

Percentage of all abortions: 0.2%

1,852 abortions total per year

Abortions for Women Age 15-19:

Percentage of all abortions: 8.3%

76,874 abortions total per year

Abortions for Women Age 20-24:

Percentage of all abortions: 33.6%

311,203 abortions total per year

Abortions for Women Age 25-29:

Percentage of all abortions: 26.5%

245,443 abortions total per year

Abortions for Women Age 30-34:

Percentage of all abortions: 15.9%

147,265 abortions total per year

Abortions for Women Age 35-39:  

Percentage of all abortions: 9.1%

84,284 abortions total per year

Abortions for Women Age 40+:

Percentage of all abortions: 3.1%

28,712 abortions total per year

This means that women in their 20s accounted for the majority (60%) of abortions and had the highest abortion rates.  [guttmacher]

What percentage of pregnancies end in abortion?

There were a reported 926,200 abortions in 2014 and 3.98 million live births. An estimated 10-15% of pregnancies end in miscarriages, or 490,620-735,930. Around 16-17% of total pregnancies, then, end in abortion. Of pregnancies that do not end in miscarriage, around 20%, or 1 in 5, end in abortion.

What is the Race/Ethnicity of the Women having Abortions?

The Guttmacher Institute reports the abortion rates by race/ethnicity:

White: 39%

Black: 28%

Hispanic: 25%

Other: 9%

While blacks and Hispanics comprise only 31.5% of the population, they account for 53% of all abortions. This demonstrates a much higher abortion rate for minorities. 

How does Economic Status Affect who has Abortions?

Poverty is often cited as the reason for needing legal abortion. In 2014:

Abortions on women with family income below 100% of the federal poverty level: 49%

Abortions on women with incomes from 100%-199% of the federal poverty level: 26%

The federal poverty level: $11,670 for a single woman with no children


How Many Abortions are Performed at each Stage of Pregnancy?

Many people draw the line of when abortion is permissible based on fetal development. The number of abortions based on the gestational age of the fetus are:

Gestational Age   Percentage   Yearly Total

< 9 weeks 33.3%   334,665

7-8 weeks   29.8%   299,490

9-12 weeks   25.7%   258,285

13-15 weeks   6.2%   62,310

16-20 weeks   3.6%   36,180

21+ weeks   1.2%   12,060

All abortions   100%   1.005 million

This means that ⅓ of abortion occur at 6 weeks of pregnancy of earlier; 89% occur in the first twelve weeks. [1]

What reasons do women give for having abortions?

Reasons most frequently cited in a 2004 Guttmacher Institute study were:

  • having a child would interfere with a woman’s education, work or ability to care for dependents (74%)
  • she could not afford a baby now (73%)
  • she did not want to be a single mother or was having relationship problems (48%)
  • Nearly four in 10 women said they had completed their childbearing
  • Almost one-third were not ready to have a child
  • Fewer than 1% said their parents’ or partners’ desire for them to have an abortion was the most important reason.

Younger women were more likely to report being unprepared to transition to motherhood. Older women more often stated that their responsibility to dependents was a major factor. [1]

In other studies, coercion is often reported.

Reasons U.S. Women Have Abortions:


Reasons given for having abortions in the United States.


What percentage of all abortions are because of “hard cases”?

The three most frequently cited “hard cases” in which some argue abortion might be justified are rape, incest and protecting the life of the mother. However, women rarely report that they are seeking an abortion for any of these reasons:

Rape: 0.3%

Incest: 0.03%

Protection of mother’s life: 0.2%

In other words, out of 1,000 women procuring abortion, only three cite rape as the primary reason, and only two cite protecting the woman’s life as the reason for the abortion.  Out of 10,000 women procuring abortion, only three cite incest as a reason.

Source: Johnston, Wm. Robert. Reasons Given For Having Abortions In The United States. http://www.johnstonsarchive.net/policy/abortion/abreasons.html.

Is Abortion Ever Necessary to Save a Woman’s Life?

Abortion is never necessary to save a woman’s life. Certain medical conditions or medical emergencies may require that the baby be delivered early, but direct, intentional abortion is never necessary to save the woman’s life.

What are the Various Methods of Abortion?

Seven abortion methods are practiced in the U.S.:

Suction (Vacuum) Aspiration

Dilation and Curettage (D&C)

Intracardiac Injection Abortion

Dilation and Evacuation (D&E)

Dilation and Extraction (D&X or Partial-birth Abortion)

Instillation (Saline) Abortion

Chemical (Medical) Abortion

A brief summary of each abortion method is below, full details are at each link.

How is a Suction (Vacuum) Aspiration abortion performed?

Suction aspiration, the most common abortion method, is typically performed when the fetus is 6-12 weeks, but can be used up to 16 weeks.  The cervix is dilated, and a hollow plastic tube with a sharp tip is inserted into the cervix and then into the uterus.  An aspirator attached to the tube tears the body of the fetus apart and suctions the pieces through the tube.

Source: Willke, John, MD and Barbara Willke. 2003. Abortion: Questions & Answers. Cincinnati: Hayes Publishing Company.

How is a D&C Abortion Performed?

In a D&C (dilation and curettage) abortion, typically performed in the first trimester, a curette (a sharp looped knife) is inserted into the uterus to scrape its walls.  The curette is then used to dismember the fetus and placenta.

Source: Willke, John, MD and Barbara Willke. 2003. Abortion: Questions & Answers. Cincinnati: Hayes Publishing Company.

How is an Intracardiac Injection Abortion Performed?

In an intracardiac abortion, a needle is guided into the fetus’ heart with the aid of ultrasound, and poison (often potassium chloride or digoxin) is injected, causing an immediate heart attack.  Intracardiac injection is most commonly used for “pregnancy reduction” abortions following in vitro fertilization (IVF) procedures, if multiple embryos were implanted to increase the likelihood of pregnancy.  In these cases, the procedure is typically performed between 10 and 12 weeks gestation.Intracardiac injection is also used in late term abortions when there is likelihood of delivering a live baby, in order to avoid state laws that would require the baby to be resuscitated and given medical care.

Sources: Clowes, Brian, PhD. 2001. The Facts of Life. Front Royal: Human Life International.

Jain, John K. and Daniel R. Mishell, Jr. 2001, February. Misoprostol regimens for termination of second trimester pregnancy, Human Reproduction, 16(2).abortion  facts

How is a Dilation and Extraction(D&E) Abortion Performed?

A D&E (dilation and evacuation) abortion is typically performed in the first half of the second trimester (13-20 weeks), but can be used up to approximately 28 weeks.  At this stage of pregnancy, the fetus’ tendons, muscles, and bones are more developed.  In a D&E abortion, forceps are inserted into the uterus to forcibly dismember the fetus, and the pieces are removed one by one. Larger fetuses must also have their skulls crushed so the pieces can pass through the cervix. Typically, the cervix must be dilated for a period of one to three days prior to a D&E abortion.  This is most often done by inserting laminaria (dried seaweed sticks) into the cervix.  Therefore, a D&E abortion usually requires two visits to the abortion facility.

Source: Clowes, Brian, PhD. 2001. The Facts of Life. Front Royal: Human Life International.

How is a D&X or “Partial Birth” Abortion Performed?

A D&X (dilation and extraction) or partial-birth abortion is typically performed in the late second or third trimester.  As with a D&E abortion (see above), the cervix must first be dilated, usually with laminaria (dried seaweed sticks).  Forceps are then inserted into the uterus to grasp the fetus’ legs.  The fetus is delivered breech while the head remains inside the birth canal.  Using blunt-tipped surgical scissors, the base of the skull is pierced, and a suction catheter is inserted to extract the contents of the skull.  This causes the skull to collapse, and the dead fetus is then fully delivered. Despite the fact that the United States Supreme Court upheld the federal Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act in 2007, D&X abortions are still being performed.  An abortionist can avoid violating the law by first injecting the fetus with a lethal intracardiac injection to ensure that the fetus will already be dead when it is partially delivered.

Sources: Goldberg, Carey. 2007. Shots assist in aborting fetuses. Boston Globe, August 10, Health and Fitness section.

Willke, John, MD and Barbara. 2003. Abortion: Questions & Answers. Cincinnati: Hayes Publishing Company.

How is an Instillation (Saline) Abortion Performed?

In a saline abortion, amniotic fluid is removed from the uterus and replaced with a saline solution, which the fetus swallows.  The fetus is killed by salt poisoning, dehydration, brain hemorrhage and convulsions. Saline abortions, typically performed in the second and early third trimester, are rarely used today, due to the risk of particularly serious health complications to the woman.

Source: Clowes, Brian, PhD. 2001. The Facts of Life. Front Royal: Human Life International.

How is a Chemical (Medical) Abortion Performed?

In a chemical abortion, also called a medical abortion, a woman is administered an abortifacient compound called mifepristone (also called RU-486 or Mifeprex). Mifepristone blocks the action of progesterone, the natural hormone vital to maintaining the lining of the uterus. As the nutrient lining disintegrates, the embryo starves.  Subsequently, the woman takes a dose of artificial prostaglandins which initiate uterine contractions and cause the embryo to be expelled from the uterus.  Abortions by mifepristone are usually done prior to 49 days gestation.

Source: Willke, John, MD and Barbara Willke. 2003. Abortion: Questions & Answers. Cincinnati: Hayes Publishing Company.

Now that you know some of the facts, learn how to share the pro-life message here and here, or keep learning with the links below.


More Numbers and Statistics

Are males and females equally likely to be aborted?

This article deals with the gender differences among children who are aborted. The answer might surprise you. More on sex-selective abortion here.

This practice is already very common in India and China. The numbers world-wide are staggering (160 Million and Counting) and sex selective abortion is becoming more common in the United States.

International Abortion Statistics:

Many people think that abortions are more common in developing nations. However if you take a look at the actual numbers the abortion rates in developed nations are pretty much the same as those in developing nations.

Russia is an exception to this rule. Abortion was promoted heavily under communism and Russia is still suffering the effects of that. Russia has the highest abortion rate.

As a close neighbor you may also be interested in the abortion policy of Mexico.

Probably the most extreme case internationally is China and their one-child policy. This doesn’t just affect the children being aborted and the mothers suffering from that decision (or forced abortion in many cases) but China’s one-child policy also affects the children who are born.

All this being said, the United States has played an active role in affecting abortion policy in other countries. One way this happens is through ‘foreign aid’ Do American taxpayer dollars go to fund abortions overseas? 

All in all, the international abortion numbers are staggering. Of the 208 million global pregnancies, 41 million ended in abortion in 2008. This leads many to conclude that in fact, abortion is used for population control.

Abortion Fact References, Sources and Citations:

[1] Guttmacher Institute, 2014, July. Facts on Induced Abortion in the United States.

(For more information on access to abortion, please visit the Questions of Law page)