UNITED STATES ABORTION FACTS AT A GLANCE

Abstracted from Guttmacher Institute’s Induced Abortion in the United States 2019 Fact Sheet and other sources

ABORTION BY THE NUMBERS

  • Abortion is common and safer than carrying a pregnancy to term. All forms of abortion are safe, and the only limits to safety are limits to access (NASEM 2018).
  • There is a shortage of providers in the United States.
  • 18% of U.S. pregnancies (excluding miscarriages) end in abortion (Jones 2017).
  • Most abortions occur early in pregnancy; nearly 90% in first 12 weeks (Jones 2017).
  • Medication abortions account for 39% of U.S. abortions (Jones 2017).
  • Most U.S. counties (89%) lack an abortion provider; these counties are home to 38% of reproductive age women (Jones 2017).
  • While decreasing, U.S. unintended pregnancy rates are higher (45%) than other developed nations (Finer 2016).
  • Data are limited, however, a significant number of people attempt to self-manage their abortions (Fuentes 2020, Moseson 2020).

WHO HAS ABORTIONS

  • One of every four U.S. women has abortions and they come from all backgrounds.
  • Approximately 60% of abortions are among patients who have had at least one child.
  • Of patients obtaining abortions, 30% identify as Protestant and 24% as Catholic.
  • More than half are in their 20s, and 12% are in their teens in 2014 (Jerman 2017). 
  • White patients account for 39% of abortion procedures, black patients 28%, Hispanic patients 25%, and patients of other races and ethnicities 9% (Jerman 2017).
  • On average, patients report ≥ 3 reasons for choosing abortion: ¾ say a baby would interfere with work, school, or responsibilities; ¾ say they cannot afford a child; and ½ do not want to be a single parent or report relationship problems (Jerman 2017).
  • Nearly 60% of patients who experience a delay in obtaining an abortion cite the time it takes to make arrangements and to raise money.
  • Transgender and non-binary people may experience undesired pregnancy after transitioning socially, medically, or both, and may seek prenatal or abortion care (Light 2014).

LONGTERM TURNAWAY OUTCOMES (ANSIRH Turnaway Study)

  • Patients are confident in their decision and the large majority do not regret their decision to have an abortion.
  • Long-term research shows that abortion does not harm patients; there is no increased risk of depression, PTSD, low life satisfaction, or other mood symptoms when comparing patients who had abortion vs. those turned away.
  • Patients denied an abortion have decreased financial security and four times the odds of living below the federal poverty level (FPL) compared to those who had an abortion.
  • Patients denied an abortion are more likely to remain tethered to abusive partners, and more likely to experience pregnancy complications including eclampsia and death.

WHO PROVIDES ABORTIONS

  • The number of providers and clinics providing abortion has declined in recent years.
  • The number of providers decreases with increasing gestational age: 95% offer abortion to 8 weeks, 34% to 20 weeks, and 16% to 24 weeks. 
  • At least 30% of providers offer medication abortion services only (Jones 2017).
  • While most states allow healthcare professionals to refuse involvement in abortion on the basis of conscientious objection, many abortion providers characterize their provision as conscience-based.

CONTRACEPTIVE USE

  • Over 50% of patients having abortions used a contraceptive method during the month they became pregnant (Jones 2018).
  • Of those not using a method the month they got pregnant, 33% perceived themselves to be at low risk for pregnancy, 32% had method concerns, 26% had unexpected sex, and 1% were forced to have sex.
  • 76% of pill users and 49% of condom users reported inconsistent use.

SAFETY OF ABORTION

  • The 2018 report from NASEM (the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine) concluded that all forms of abortion (medication, aspiration, dilation and evacuation, and induction) are safe and that the only factors decreasing safety are those decreasing access (NASEM 2018, Upadhyay 2015, White 2015).
  • First trimester abortions pose no long-term risk of infertility, ectopic pregnancy, spontaneous abortion, or breast cancer (Guttmacher 2019).
  • Abortion does not pose a hazard to patient’s mental health (Biggs 2016, Horvath 2017). The most common emotional response following an abortion is a sense of relief.
  • Mortality associated with childbirth is 14 times that of legal abortion (White 2015).
  • The risk of abortion complications is minimal in the U.S., with less than 0.5% of patients experiencing a complication that requires hospitalization (NASEM 2018, White 2015).

THE IMPACT OF ABORTION-RELATED STIGMA

  • Because abortion is highly stigmatized, patients who seek or undergo abortion may keep their decision a secret.
  • A patient may choose not to disclose their decision to family or friends, exclude abortion in their medical history, or delay care or management of emergencies.
  • A systematic review showed that patients who have had abortions experience fear of social judgment, self-judgment and a need for secrecy. Secrecy was associated with psychological distress and social isolation (Guttmacher 2016).
  • “Stigma and silence produce a vicious cycle: when [patients do not disclose their experience or] providers do not disclose their work, their silence can perpetuate a stereotype that abortion remains rare, or that legitimate, mainstream providers do not perform abortions. This can in turn contribute to marginalization of patients and abortion providers.” (Harris 2013)
  • Stigma can lead to the social, medical, and legal marginalization of abortion care around the world and is a barrier to access to high quality, safe abortion care.

 

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