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 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, physician assistant) within the limits of state regulations that is intended to terminate a suspected or known ongoing intrauterine pregnancy and that does not result in a live birth. 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 the 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, the 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, including:
- Identify characteristics of women who are at high risk of unintended pregnancy
- Evaluate the success of programs aimed at preventing unintended pregnancies
- 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
- Calculate the national legal induced abortion case-fatality rate
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 2016 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 MEDLINE/PubMedexternal icon or MedlinePlusexternal icon bibliographic reference for other abortion data.
Abortions Distributed by State of Maternal Residence and State of Clinical Service
2009 – 2016 – Download files: XLS – 419 KBexcel icon
2016 – Download file: excel icon[CSV – 11 KB]
2015 – Download file: excel icon[CSV – 11KB]
2014 – Download file: excel icon[CSV – 10 KB]
2013 – Download file: excel icon[CSV – 10 KB]
2012 – Download file: excel icon[CSV – 10 KB]
2011 – Download file: excel icon[CSV – 10 KB]
2010 – Download file: excel icon[CSV – 10 KB]
2009 – Download file: excel icon[CSV – 10 KB]
In 2016, 623,471 legal induced abortions were reported to CDC from 48 reporting areas. The abortion rate for 2016 was 11.6 abortions per 1,000 women aged 15–44 years, and the abortion ratio was 186 abortions per 1,000 live births.
Compared with 2015, the total number and rate of reported abortions fell by 2%, and the abortion ratio decreased by 1%. Additionally, from 2007 to 2016, the number, rate, and ratio of reported abortions decreased 24%, 26%, and 18%, respectively. In 2016, all three measures reached their lowest level for the entire period of analysis (2007-2016).
Women in their twenties accounted for the majority of abortions in 2016 and throughout the period of analysis. The majority of abortions in 2016 took place early in gestation: 91.0% of abortions were performed at ≤13 weeks’ gestation; a smaller number of abortions (7.7%) were performed at 14–20 weeks’ gestation, and even fewer (1.2%) were performed at ≥21 weeks’ gestation. In 2016, 27.9% of all abortions were early medical abortions (a nonsurgical abortion at ≤8 weeks’ gestation). The percentage of abortions reported as early medical abortions increased 113% from 2007 to 2016, with a 14% increase from 2015 to 2016. Source: MMWR Surveill Summ 2019;68(No. SS-11).