May 4, 2022 - Health
Axios Explains: Abortion

The state of abortion in America

Data: Guttmacher Institute; Map: Thomas Oide and Erin Davis/Axios
Data: Guttmacher Institute; Map: Thomas Oide and Erin Davis/Axios

The number of U.S. women who get abortions has decreased dramatically in recent decades, with typical patients now tending to be in their 20s and living in blue states.

Why it matters: Abortion access is likely to be drastically curtailed in red states should a leaked draft of a U.S. Supreme Court decision hold, gutting the federal right to an abortion. But the profile of abortion patients has trended older since that right was established, and the vast majority of procedures tend to be early in pregnancies.

State of play: In 2019, nearly 630,000 abortions were reported to the CDC, reflecting a rate of about 11.4 abortions per 1,000 women aged 15–44 years.

  • Around 18% of all pregnancies in the U.S. end in abortion, according to the CDC.
  • Women in their 20s accounted for the majority of abortions between 2010 and 2019
  • That year, more than three-quarters of abortions were performed by nine weeks of a pregnancy, and rates were higher among Black and Hispanic women than among white women.
  • Factors influencing the abortion rate include access to health care services and contraception; the availability of abortion providers; state regulations, such as mandatory waiting periods; parental involvement laws and legal restrictions on providers, the CDC writes. The state of the economy and resulting impact on family planning decisions and contraceptive use also play a role.
Data: Guttmacher Institute; Chart: Erin Davis/Axios Visuals

The big picture: Abortion rates have been declining for years, particularly among adolescents. The overall birth rate has also declined since 1973, according to the Guttmacher Institute.

  • Many of the states in the South and Midwest most immediately poised to act to eliminate access should the high court rule against a federal abortion right already have lower-than-average abortion rates.

Zoom in: These national trends are largely encapsulated in Texas, one of the states that would automatically ban abortion if SCOTUS overturns its earlier ruling.

  • In 2020, 58% of women who received an abortion were in their 20s and were disproportionately Black, according to a report released by the Texas Health and Human Services Commission.
  • 84% were unmarried, 63% were receiving their first abortion and 39% were among women who hadn't given birth before. Nearly a quarter had given birth once before, 21% had had two previous live births and 16% had three or more.
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