Since 1969, CDC has conducted abortion surveillance to document the number and characteristics of women obtaining legal induced abortions in the United States.
REPORTING PERIOD COVERED:
DESCRIPTION OF SYSTEM:
Each year, CDC requests abortion data from the central health agencies of 52 reporting areas (the 50 states, the District of Columbia, and New York City). This information is provided voluntarily. For 2008, data were received from 49 reporting areas. For the purpose of trend analysis, data were evaluated from the 45 areas that reported data every year during 1999-2008. Abortion rates (number of abortions per 1,000 women) and ratios (number of abortions per 1,000 live births) were calculated using census and natality data, respectively.
A total of 825,564 abortions were reported to CDC for 2008. Of these, 808,528 abortions (97.9% of the total) were from the 45 reporting areas that provided data every year during 1999-2008. Among these same 45 reporting areas, the abortion rate for 2008 was 16.0 abortions per 1,000 women aged 15-44 years, and the abortion ratio was 234 abortions per 1,000 live births. Compared with 2007, the total number and rate of reported abortions for these 45 reporting areas essentially were unchanged, although the abortion ratio was 1% higher. Reported abortion numbers, rates, and ratios remained 3%, 4%, and 10% lower, respectively, in 2008 than they had been in 1999. Women aged 20-29 years accounted for 57.1% of all abortions reported in 2008 and for the majority of abortions during the entire period of analysis (1999-2008). In 2008, women aged 20-29 years also had the highest abortion rates (29.6 abortions per 1,000 women aged 20-24 years and 21.6 abortions per 1,000 women aged 25-29 years). Adolescents aged 15-19 years accounted for 16.2% of all abortions in 2008 and had an abortion rate of 14.3 abortions per 1,000 adolescents aged 15-19 years; women aged ≥35 years accounted for a smaller percentage (11.9%) of abortions and had lower abortion rates (7.8 abortions per 1,000 women aged 35-39 years and 2.7 abortions per 1,000 women aged ≥40 years). Throughout the period of analysis, abortion rates decreased among adolescents aged ≤19 years, whereas they increased among women aged ≥35 years. Among women aged 20-24 years abortion rates decreased during 1999-2003 and then leveled off during 2004-2008. In contrast to the percentage distribution of abortions and abortion rates by age, abortionratios in 2008 and throughout the entire period of analysis were highest among adolescents aged ≤19 years and lowest among women aged 30-39 years. Abortion ratios decreased during 1999-2008 for women in all age groups except for those aged <15 years; however, the steady decrease was interrupted from 2007 to 2008 when abortion ratios increased among women in all age groups except for those aged ≥40 years. In 2008, most (62.8%) abortions were performed at ≤8 weeks' gestation, and 91.4% were performed at ≤13 weeks' gestation. Few abortions (7.3%) were performed at 14-20 weeks' gestation, and even fewer (1.3%) were performed at ≥21 weeks' gestation. During 1999-2008, the percentage of abortions performed at ≤13 weeks' gestation remained stable, whereas abortions performed at ≥16 weeks' gestation decreased 13%-17%. Moreover, among the abortions performed at ≤13 weeks' gestation, the distribution shifted toward earlier gestational ages, with the percentage of abortions performed at ≤6 weeks' gestation increasing 53%. In 2008, 75.9% of abortions were performed by curettage at ≤13 weeks' gestation, and 14.6% were performed by early medical abortion (a nonsurgical abortion at ≤8 weeks' gestation); 8.5% of abortions were performed by curettage at >13 weeks' gestation. Among the 62.8% of abortions that were performed at ≤8 weeks' gestation and thus were eligible for early medical abortion, 22.5% were completed by this method. The use of medical abortion increased 17% from 2007 to 2008. Deaths of women associated with complications from abortions for 2008 are being investigated under CDC's Pregnancy Mortality Surveillance System. In 2007, the most recent year for which data were available, six women were reported to have died as a result of complications from known legal induced abortions. No reported deaths were associated with known illegal induced abortions.
Among the 45 areas that reported data every year during 1999-2008, the total number and rate of reported abortions essentially did not change from 2007 to 2008. This finding is consistent with the recent leveling off from steady decreases that had been observed in the past. In contrast, the abortion ratio increased from 2007 to 2008 after having decreased steadily. In 2007, as in previous years, reported deaths related to abortion were rare.
PUBLIC HEALTH ACTION:
This report provides the data for examining trends in the number and characteristics of women obtaining abortions. This information is needed to better understand the reasons why efforts to reduced unintended pregnancy have stalled and can be used by policymakers and program planners to guide and evaluate efforts to prevent unintended pregnancy.