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Fact Sheet

Abortion Surveillance

June 7, 2002
Contact: CDC, National Center for Chronic
Disease Prevention & Health Promotion
(770) 488–5131

  • In 1998, 884,273 legal induced abortions were reported to CDC. This total represents a 2 percent decrease from the 900,171 legal induced abortions reported by the same 48 reporting areas for 1997.

  • The abortion ratio in 1998 was 264 legal induced abortions per 1,000 live births compared to 274 in 1997 (for the same 48 areas).

  • For both 1997 and 1998, the abortion rate for these 48 areas was 17 per 1,000 women aged 15-44 years.

  • Women who had abortions were more likely to be young (25 years or younger), white, and unmarried. As in 1997, about one-fifth of women who had abortions were aged 19 years or younger. Of the women who had an abortion, 41 percent were known to have had no previous live births.

  • As in previous years, more than half (56 percent) of reported legal induced abortions were performed during the first 8 weeks of pregnancy, and 88 percent were performed during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.

  • In 1998, a total of 884,273 legal abortions were reported to CDC. These data were compiled from 48 reporting areas (Alaska, California, New Hampshire, and Oklahoma did not report data in 1998.) In 1997, a total of 1,186,039 legal abortions were reported to CDC. These data were compiled from 52 reporting areas. Most of the decrease in total number of abortions between 1997 and 1998 is due to the fact that California was not included in the 1998 report.

  • Abortion statistics are compiled by the CDC on the basis of voluntary reports from health departments in states, New York City and the District of Columbia. In previous years, CDC used a statistical procedure to calculate the number of abortions for non-reporting areas. However, this year CDC discontinued using this procedure because of changes in data reliability. For instance, in California, a substantial amount of Medi-Cal information is no longer available because of shifts in service to managed care organizations.

  • For the second time, this report includes numbers, rates and ratios of reported abortions by state of women’s residence as well as by the state in which the abortions were performed. However, Florida and Louisiana could not provide residence data, and Iowa only provided data on in-state residents. Wisconsin only provided characteristics by residence. Arizona and Massachusetts provided data only on total number of abortions to out-of-state residents.

  • For the second time, medical (nonsurgical) abortions are included in this report. A total of 24 reporting areas submitted information stating that they performed medical (nonsurgical) procedures. Because Massachusetts and Minnesota included medical abortions in the "other" category, the number of medical abortions in these two areas is not included in the total number of medical abortions reported. We do not know to what extent the 4,899 medical (nonsurgical) abortions reported to CDC from 21 states and New York City represent all reporting areas.

  • Since 1969, CDC has documented the number and characteristics of abortions to monitor unintended pregnancies and to help identify preventable causes of complications and deaths associated with abortions.

  • For 1988-1992, 54 maternal deaths related to legal induced abortion were reported; for 1993-1997, 36 such deaths were reported. Thus the number of maternal deaths related to legal induced abortion dropped by a third between 1988-1992 and 1993-1997. The number of such deaths was highest before the 1980s.

  • The case-fatality rate for known legal induced abortion for 1993 to 1997 was 0.6 deaths per 100,000 legal abortions.

  • In September, 2000, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved mifepristone (RU-486) for medical abortions. Therefore, the abortion surveillance report for 1998 does not identify abortions performed by this method.

The full report is available online at

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This page last updated June 6, 2002

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