As some states move to restrict abortion, here's a look at the data

Published on May 22nd 2019

In May, Alabama passed the nation’s strictest abortion bill that would make abortion a felony in many cases beginning in 2020.

The Alabama law was passed following state bills earlier this year which prohibit abortions in Ohio and Georgia after 6 weeks.

UPDATE: Missouri’s legislature passed an eight-week ban after this piece was published.

The state bills are targeting the early weeks of pregnancy when most abortions take place. In 2015, 65.4% of reported abortions took place in the first eight weeks of pregnancy, according to federal data. The bills are also being passed after years of falling abortion rates both nationally and in the states in question.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention began compiling state-level data on abortion in 1969, though direct comparisons across all years cannot be made as some states chose not to report data in certain years.

The abortion rate peaked in 1980 when there were 25 abortions per 1,000 women age 15 to 44 and 359 abortions per 1,000 live births. (Those figures are based on data from every state and the District of Columbia.)

In 2015, the national abortion rate (excluding California, Maryland and New Hampshire) fell to a low of 11.8 abortions per 1,000 women age 15 to 44 and 188 abortions per 1,000 live births. While these numbers cannot be directly compared to the 1980 figure, it does signal that the abortion rate has been falling over several decades.

Between 1980 to 2017, the national fertility rate fell 11.8 percent from 68.4 births per 1,000 women age 15-44 to 60.3.

Metric:
Abortions per 1,000 women age 15-44
Abortions per 1,000 live births
Reported abortions
Fertility rate (births per 1,000 women age 15-44

Abortions per 1,000 women age 15-44

The states where laws restricting abortion have been passed in 2019 have lower rates of abortion than the rest of the country. In 2015, New York had the highest rate of all states reporting data with 22 reported abortions per 1,000 women aged 15 to 144. Alabama had a rate of 5.4, while Ohio’s rate was 8.9 and Georgia’s was 8.1. Nebraska and West Virginia had the lowest abortion rate at 5.2.

State public health departments in Alabama, Georgia, and Ohio all have data available through 2017 showing that abortion rates have dropped through the years. Since 2005, abortion rates are down 30% in Alabama, 11% in Georgia and 33% in Ohio.

Abortion rate per 1,000 women age 15 to 44 in Alabama, Georgia and Ohio

Since 2011, Ohio’s annual abortion report has included information on contraceptive use. In 2011, 7,041, or 28% of the state’s 24,764 reported abortions involved women who said they used some sort of contraception. In 2017, 21% or 4,402 of the state’s 20,893 reported abortions involved women who reported the use of contraception.

Based on its National Survey of Family Growth, the CDC also has data on both increased contraceptive use in recent years as well as a decrease in unintended pregnancies. Though the reports are based on data several years old, the CDC reports that in 2011 45% of pregnancies were unintended compared with 51% in 2006. The same survey found an increase in the percentage of women age 15 to 44 currently using contraception from 61.9% in 2002 to 63.5% in the period between 2015 and 2017.

See additional data on reported abortions by age, martial status, race/ethnicity and other factors.

Sources

CDC Abortion Data and Statistics

Alabama Department of Public Health

Georgia Department of Public Health

Ohio Department of Public Health

Other reports