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 Report 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, 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:
- 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 2018 are also available for abortions distributed by state of 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 icon or MedlinePlusexternal icon bibliographic reference for other abortion data.
Abortions Distributed by State of Residence and State of Clinical Service
2009 – 2018 – Download files: excel icon[XLS – 429 KB]
2018 – Download file: excel icon[CSV – 11 KB]
2017 – Download file: excel icon[CSV – 11 KB]
2016 – Download file: excel icon[CSV – 11 KB]
2015 – Download file: excel icon[CSV – 11 KB]
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 2018, 619,591 legal induced abortions were reported to CDC from 49 reporting areas. Among 48 reporting areas with data each year during 2009–2018, in 2018, a total of 614,820 abortions were reported, the abortion rate was 11.3 abortions per 1,000 women aged 15–44 years, and the abortion ratio was 189 abortions per 1,000 live births.
From 2009 to 2018, the number, rate, and ratio of reported abortions decreased 22%, 24%, and 16%, respectively. In 2017, the total number, rate, and ratio of reported abortions decreased to historic lows for the period of analysis for all three measures. However, compared with 2017, in 2018, the total number and rate of reported abortions increased by 1%, and the abortion ratio increased by 2%.
Similar to previous years, in 2018, women in their twenties accounted for the majority of abortions (57.7%). The majority of abortions in 2018 took place early in gestation: 92.2% of abortions were performed at ≤13 weeks’ gestation; a smaller number of abortions (6.9%) were performed at 14–20 weeks’ gestation, and even fewer (1.0%) were performed at ≥21 weeks’ gestation. Early medical abortion is defined as the administration of medications(s) to induce an abortion at ≤9 completed weeks’ gestation, consistent with the current U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) labeling for mifepristone (implemented in 2016). In 2018, 38.6% of all abortions were early medical abortions (a nonsurgical abortion at ≤9 weeks’ gestation). Use of early medical abortion increased 9% from 2017 to 2018 and 120% from 2009 to 2018. Source: MMWR. 2020;69(7).