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Abortion Rates and Ratios Continue Dropping in the United States


Abortion rates and ratios continue to decline in the United States. This is so despite the increased liberties the United States Supreme Court gave to doctors and women [in this order] in its 1973 ruling Roe v. Wade. Also, more than 90 percent of abortions are done well within the first trimester. About 1% of abortions are done in the third trimester and only for the very most serious reasons. Foot-long dolls and pictures of babies are not representative of aborted embryos or early fetuses but of the children they probably would have become.

We Seventh-day Adventists need not rush in revising our abortion guidelines because things are already moving in a positive direction. We can take all the time we need to do this well. Haste makes waste here, too.

An excellent place to find these numbers is The State of Abortion in the United States, 2019. A sixty-page booklet which the National Right to Life Committee published in January 30 of this year, it combines information from the Guttmacher Institute, which gathers information from abortion providers, the United States Center for Disease Control and Prevention, and its own interpretations. The NRLC rightly describes itself as the “flagship of the prolife movement.” Here are representative samples of its summaries. The very last one is directly from a report by the CDC itself.

National Right to Life Committee

“From recent data analyzed in these pages, we know the annual number of abortions continues to decline. This drop in numbers can be traced to a number of factors, but among them are the efforts by National Right to Life and its network of state affiliates to enact protective laws that provide legal protection to unborn children and offer hope and help to their mothers.”

NRLC Summary of Center for Disease Control and Prevention Report

“Significantly, abortion rates and abortion ratios also showed declines, both dropping to levels not seen since Roe legalized abortion nationwide in 1973. The CDC’s abortion rate is the number of abortions per 1,000 women aged 15-44 years. In 2015 it was 11.8, down from 12.1 from the previous year. In 1973 the abortion rate was 14 per thousand women aged 15-44. In 1972 the abortion rate was 13 per thousand in 1972.

Clearly abortion has become considerably less common than it’s been since abortion became legal throughout the nation. As a reference point, in 1980 the abortion rate was more than twice that — 25 per thousand — the largest figure CDC ever reported.”

NRLC Summary Guttmacher Institute Report

“Most abortions are performed on women under thirty — no statistical surprise. But this group saw their abortion rates drop more than did the over thirty group. About 110,000 of the 926,190 abortions performed in 2014 were on teenagers. Most of these (about 69%) were to young women aged 18-19. Women between the ages of 20 and 29, accounted for over 60% (556,240 of 926,190) of the abortions in 2014.

Older women (between 30 and 44) had 259,810. This represented 28% of the abortions in 2014.

Abortion rates for teens 15-17 fell 56% from 2008 to 2014, the highest drop for any demographic studied. This makes clearer than ever the impact of parental involvement laws. Abortion rates were higher for women in their twenties, but comparisons of 2014 rates to earlier ones from 2008 show interesting changes.

Women between the ages of 20 and 24, and those 25-29 saw abortion rates fall 30% and 21%, respectively.

Rates for older women did not drop as much from the previous 2008 count. They were down 20% for women between 30-34%. For women, 35-39, the decline was 11%. Finally there was a 16% drop for women 40-44.

It stuns people, but statistics consistently show, and it is once again demonstrated here, that most women having abortions have already given birth to at least one child. In 2014, a total of 59.3% of women who were having abortions had one (26.2%) or more (33.1%) previous births. Abortion rates were down for women who had given birth and those that hadn’t from 2008.

An August 2017 study by the Guttmacher Institute confirms that in 2014, nearly half of abortions — 44.8% — were actually repeat abortions, that is, abortions to women who have had at least one previous abortion.”

And an Additional Report form the Center for Disease Control and Prevention “Abortion Surveillance”

“The majority of abortions in 2015 took place early in gestation: 91.1% of abortions were performed at ≤13 weeks’ gestation; a smaller number of abortions (7.6%) were performed at 14–20 weeks’ gestation, and even fewer (1.3%) were performed at ≥21 weeks’ gestation. In 2015, 24.6% of all abortions were early medical abortions (a non-surgical abortion at ≤8 weeks’ gestation). The percentage of abortions reported as early medical abortions increased 114% from 2006 to 2015, with an 8% increase from 2014 to 2015.” Source: Abortion Surveillance — United States, 2015. MMWR Surveill Summ 2018;67(No. SS-13)

Personal Comments

This booklet contains more helpful demographic information about abortion in the United States. It makes clear that unscheduled pregnancies occur more frequently among women who are in difficult circumstances. The best way to reduce abortions is for men not to impregnate women when they don’t plan on taking care of any possible offspring. The next best thing is to improve the educational and financial circumstances of everyone involved. We SDAs are often better at the second of these than the first and much better at both of them than we are at writing guidelines. This does not mean that we shouldn’t try. It does mean that we should move slowly and adroitly. There are theoretical and practical landmines almost everywhere we turn.


David Larson is Professor of Religion at Loma Linda University Health.

Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons


Further Reading:

Our Abortion Guidelines Are Too Good to Replace” by David Larson, September 16, 2019

Abortion Law: Adventist Leaders Active Behind the Scenes” by Kent Kingston, September 18, 2019

Amidst Growing Criticism Adventist Church is Revisiting Abortion Position” by Michael Peabody, September 23, 2019


The Seventh-day Adventist Church’s Official Guidelines on Abortion, approved and voted by the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists Executive Committee at the Annual Council session in Silver Spring, Maryland, October 12, 1992.

The current Spectrum print journal, volume 47, issue 3, includes additional articles on abortion.

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