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.
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 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 and reporting areas needing guidance on abortion surveillance may contact CDC at Contact CDC-INFO.
Preparation of the Abortion Surveillance report is based on the data available from the reporting areas that voluntarily provide this information for a given calendar year. After CDC receives the data, additional time is required to perform the analyses that produce the tables, the figure, 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 to:
- Evaluate the success of programs aimed at promoting equitable access to patient-centered quality contraceptive services in the United States to reduce 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 2011 to 2020 are also available for abortions distributed by area of residence and area 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/PubMed or MedlinePlus bibliographic reference for other abortion data.
Abortions Distributed by Area of Residence and Area of Clinical Service
Abortion Surveillance—Findings and Reports
In 2020, 620,327 legal induced abortions were reported to CDC from 49 reporting areas. Among 48 reporting areas with data each year during 2011–2020, in 2020, a total of 615,911 abortions were reported, the abortion rate was 11.2 abortions per 1,000 women aged 15–44 years, and the abortion ratio was 198 abortions per 1,000 live births.
From 2019 to 2020, the number of abortions decreased 2%, the abortion rate decreased 2%, and the abortion ratio increased 2%. From 2011 to 2020, the number, rate, and ratio of reported abortions decreased 15%, 18%, and 9%, respectively.
Similar to previous years, in 2020, women in their twenties accounted for more than half of abortions (57.2%). Nearly all abortions in 2020 took place early in gestation: 93.1% of abortions were performed at ≤13 weeks’ gestation; a smaller number of abortions (5.8%) were performed at 14–20 weeks’ gestation, and even fewer (0.9%) were performed at ≥21 weeks’ gestation. Early medical abortion is defined as the administration of medication(s) to induce an abortion at ≤9 completed weeks’ gestation, consistent with the current Food and Drug Administration labeling for mifepristone (implemented in 2016). In 2020, 51.0% of all abortions were early medical abortions. Use of early medical abortion increased 22% from 2019 to 2020 and 154% from 2011 to 2020. Source: MMWR. 2022;71(10).