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Abortion Surveillance: Preliminary Data -- United States, 1990

For 1990, CDC received data on legal induced abortions from 52 reporting areas: 50 states, New York City, and the District of Columbia. This report presents preliminary data for 1990.

In 1990, 1,429,577 legal abortions were reported to CDC (Table 1), an increase of 2.4% over the number reported for 1989 (1). However, because the number of live births increased by 3.4%, the national abortion ratio declined from 346 legal abortions per 1000 live births in 1989 to 344 per 1000 in 1990. The national abortion rate (the number of legal abortions per 1000 women aged 15-44 years) remained stable at 24. As in previous years, approximately 92% of women who had a legal abortion were residents of the state in which the procedure was performed.

Women who obtained legal abortions in 1990 were predominately aged less than 25 years, white, and unmarried. In 1990, a slightly lower proportion of women who had abortions had had live-born children than was reported for women obtaining abortions in 1989 (49.2% versus 52.2%). Curettage (suction and sharp) remained the primary abortion procedure (approximately 99% of all such procedures). As in previous years, more than half of legal abortions were performed during the first 8 weeks of gestation, and approximately 88% during the first 12 weeks.

Reported by: Statistics and Computer Resources Br, Div of Reproductive Health, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, CDC.

Editorial Note

Editorial Note: For 1990, the number of abortions was available for all reporting areas. Approximately 28% of the abortions, however, were reported from states that do not have centralized reporting; these areas could provide no information on the characteristics of women obtaining abortions. The states that report such information vary from year to year; therefore, direct comparisons of annual data should be made with caution.

The patterns characterizing the use of abortion in the United States have remained relatively stable since 1980. Although the number of abortions performed in 1990 was approximately 10% greater than in 1980, the number of live births increased by approximately 16% during the same period (2). In 1990, the national ratio of abortions to live births was lower than for any year since 1977, suggesting that a larger proportion of pregnancies ended in live births (3). The national abortion rate has fluctuated little since 1980, while the national fertility rate (live births per 1000 women of reproductive age) in 1990 was the highest since 1972 (4) (Figure 1).


  1. Koonin LM, Smith JC, Ramick M, Lawson HW. Abortion surveillance- -United States, 1989. In: CDC surveillance summaries (September 4). MMWR 1992;41(no. SS-5):1-33.

  2. NCHS. Annual summary of births, marriages, divorces, and deaths: United States, 1990. Hyattsville, Maryland: US Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, CDC, 1991. (Monthly vital statistics report; vol 39, no. 13).

  3. CDC. Abortion surveillance, 1977. Atlanta: US Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, 1979.

  4. NCHS. Advance report of final natality statistics, 1989. Hyattsville, Maryland: US Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, CDC, 1991. (Monthly vital statistics report; vol 40, no. 8, suppl).

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