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 jurisdiction conduct abortion surveillance. This information is voluntarily reported to CDC. CDC’s surveillance system compiles the information from states and jurisdictions 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. This definition excludes management of intrauterine fetal death, early pregnancy failure/loss, ectopic pregnancy, or retained products of conception. Most states and jurisdictions that collect abortion data report whether an abortion was performed by medication or surgery.
No, states and jurisdictions 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 jurisdictions 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 states and jurisdictions 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. For more information on compilation of the report, please view the abstract and methods portion of the most recent Abortion Surveillance 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 estimates of pregnancy loss.
- Monitor changes in clinical practice patterns related to abortion, such as changes in the types of procedures used and the 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.
Besides the data available in the annual Abortion Surveillance report, data from 2012 to 2021 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. For other abortion data, search the National Library of Medicine’s MEDLINE/PubMed or MedlinePlus bibliographic reference.
Abortions Distributed by Area of Residence and Area of Clinical Service
Abortion Surveillance—Findings and Reports
In 2021, 625,978 legal induced abortions were reported to CDC from 48 reporting areas. Among 47 reporting areas with data each year during 2012–2021, in 2021, a total of 622,108 abortions were reported, the abortion rate was 11.6 abortions per 1,000 women aged 15–44 years, and the abortion ratio was 204 abortions per 1,000 live births.
From 2020 to 2021, the number of abortions increased 5%, the abortion rate increased 5%, and the abortion ratio increased 4%. From 2012 to 2021, the number, rate, and ratio of reported abortions decreased 8%, 11%, and 1%, respectively.
Similar to previous years, in 2021, women in their twenties accounted for more than half of abortions (57.0%). Nearly all abortions in 2021 took place early in gestation: 93.5% of abortions were performed at ≤13 weeks’ gestation; a smaller number of abortions (5.7%) were performed at 14–20 weeks’ gestation, and even fewer (0.9%) were performed at ≥21 weeks’ gestation. Early medication 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 2021, 53.0% of all abortions were early medication abortions. Use of early medication abortion increased 3% from 2020 to 2021 and 137% from 2012 to 2021. Source: MMWR. 2023;72(9);1-29.