CDCs Abortion Surveillance System FAQs
CDC began abortion surveillance in 1969 to document the number and characteristics of women obtaining legal induced abortions. Many states and reporting areas (New York City and the District of Columbia) conduct abortion surveillance. CDC compiles the information these reporting areas collect to produce national estimates. CDC’s surveillance system compiles information on legal induced abortions only.
For the purpose of surveillance, a legal induced abortion is defined as an intervention performed by a licensed clinician (e.g., a physician, nurse-midwife, nurse practitioner, or physician assistant) that is intended to terminate an ongoing pregnancy.
Most states and reporting areas that collect abortion data now report if an abortion was medical or surgical. Medical abortions are legal procedures that use medications instead of surgery.
No, states and areas voluntarily report data to CDC for inclusion in its annual Abortion Surveillance Report. CDC’s Division of Reproductive Health prepares surveillance reports as data become available. There is no national requirement for data submission or reporting.
States needing guidance on abortion surveillance may contact CDC at Contact CDC-INFO.
Preparation of the Abortion Surveillance Reports is based on the data available from all states and reporting areas that voluntarily provide this information for a given calendar year. In addition, after CDC receives the data some additional time is required to perform the analyses that produce the tables, charts, and the narrative describing methods and trends. Please view the abstract and methods portion of the most recent Abortion Surveillance Report for more information on compilation of the report.
This report is used for many purposes in the field of public health. In the past, it has been used to
- Identify characteristics of women who are at high risk of unintended pregnancy.
- Evaluate the effectiveness of programs for reducing teen pregnancies and unintended pregnancies among women of all ages.
- Calculate pregnancy rates, on the basis of the number of pregnancies ending in abortion, in conjunction with birth data and pregnancy loss estimates.
- Monitor changes in clinical practice patterns related to abortion, such as changes in the types of procedures used, and weeks of gestation at the time of abortion. This information is needed to calculate the mortality rate of specific abortion procedures.
Surveillance systems, such as this one, continue to provide data necessary to examine trends in public health.
In addition to the data available in the annual Abortion Surveillance Report, data from 2009 to 2015 Cdc-excel[XLS – 367 KB] also are available for abortions distributed by state of maternal residence and state of clinical service. These data are consistent with data reported to CDC for each year’s Abortion Surveillance Report. No additional data are available for public use. Search the National Library of Medicine’s MEDLINE/PubMedExternal or MedlinePlusExternal bibliographic reference for other abortion data.
Abortions Distributed by State of Maternal Residence and State of Clinical Service
2009 – 2015 – Download files: Cdc-excel[XLS – 367 KB]
2015 – Download file: Cdc-excel[CSV – 11 KB]
2014 – Download file: Cdc-excel[CSV – 10 KB]
2013 – Download file: Cdc-excel[CSV – 10 KB]
2012 – Download file: Cdc-excel[CSV – 10 KB]
2011 – Download file: Cdc-excel[CSV – 10 KB]
2010 – Download file: Cdc-excel[CSV – 10 KB]
2009 – Download file: Cdc-excel[CSV – 10 KB]
Abortion Surveillance—Findings and Reports
In 2015, 638,169 legal induced abortions were reported to CDC from 49 reporting areas. The abortion rate for 2015 was 11.8 abortions per 1,000 women aged 15–44 years, and the abortion ratio was 188 abortions per 1,000 live births.
Compared with 2014, the total number, rate, and ratio of reported abortions for 2015 decreased 2%. Additionally, from 2006 to 2015, the number, rate, and ratio of reported abortions decreased 24%, 26%, and 19%, respectively. In 2015, all three measures reached their lowest level for the entire period of analysis (2006—2015).
Women in their twenties accounted for the majority of abortions in 2015 and throughout the period of analysis. 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).