Jun 15, 2022 - Health

Abortions have been increasing since 2017, new data shows

One in five pregnancies in the U.S. in 2020 ended in an abortion, according to data released Wednesday by the Guttmacher Institute.

The big picture: The number of abortions in the U.S. had been in decline for about 30 years until 2017, when national abortion figures were at their lowest since Roe v. Wade was decided in 1973, but the new data shows that they have been increasing since.

  • "An increase in abortion numbers is a positive development if it means people are getting the health care they want and need. Rather than focusing on reducing abortion, policies should instead center the needs of people and protect their right to bodily autonomy," Guttmacher researchers wrote.

By the numbers: In 2020, there were 930,160 abortions, compared to 862,320 in 2017, an 8% increase, per data from Guttmacher, a research organization that supports abortion rights.

  • The abortion ratio (the number of abortions per 100 pregnancies) rose from 18.4% in 2017 to 20.6% in 2020.
  • Between 2017 and 2020, there was a 6% decline in births.

In 2020, medication abortion accounted for 54% of all U.S. abortions in 2020, an increase from 39% in 2017, Guttmacher said in February.

Zoom in: Abortions across all four U.S. regions also increased between 2017 and 2020:

  • The West saw a 12% increase.
  • The Midwest saw a 10% increase.
  • The South saw an 8% increase.
  • The Northeast saw a 2% increase.

While abortions increased nationally, there was a greater variation when looking at specific states:

  • In New York, abortions increase 5% between 2017 and 2020, but with differing patterns within that timeframe. It had "substantially" risen between 2017 and 2019, but declined 6% between 2019 and 2020. Guttmacher argues that this could be due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which forced some clinics to pause operations or close.
  • Illinois saw a 25% increase between 2017 and 2020, which was due to people traveling from other states to access care, as well as an increase in residents seeking abortion, because Illinois has allowed the use of state Medicaid funds to pay for abortion care since January 2018.
  • Abortions in Mississippi rose 40% between 2017 and 2020. There is only one abortion clinic in the state, which normally prompted residents to travel to other states, but Guttmacher says that as neighboring states became more restrictive, state residents started accessing care in their state of residence.
  • In Texas, the number of abortions between 2017 and 2019 increased by 7%, but then had a 2% decrease between 2019 and 2020, which could be due to "the state's near-total ban on abortion provision as part of broader COVID-19 restrictions imposed by the Texas governor, when he deemed abortion 'nonessential' health care at the beginning of the pandemic."

Zoom out: The new numbers come as a leak released by Politico revealed that the Supreme Court might be ready to overturn Roe, as well as other court precedents that protect abortion access on the federal level.

Go deeper:

Go deeper