U.S. Abortion Rate Reaches Lowest Level Since Early '70s



Abortion rates in the United States have been reaching record lows, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). There's also evidence of more abortions being performed at earlier stages in pregnancies. 

In a new "abortion surveillance" report, the CDC explores data from 2002 to 2011 and finds the total number of abortions decreased 13 percent during this period. The abortion rate—that is, the number of abortions per every 1,000 women age 15 to 44—decreased 14 percent, and the number of abortions relative to births was down 12 percent.

Over this same time period, the CDC notes a 6 percent increase in abortions performed at eight weeks or less gestation, suggesting that women are catching and terminating unwanted pregnancies earlier. In 2011, almost 65 percent of all abortions were performed before 8 weeks gestation, and nearly all (91.4 percent) were performed by 13 weeks. Just 7.3 percent of abortions took place at 14-20 weeks gestation and 1.4 percent at or after 21 weeks. 

Overall, there were 13.9 abortions per 1,000 women in 2011, down 5 percent from 2010. There were 219 abortions performed per 1,000 births, down 4 percent from the previous year. Analysts say the decline has less to do with abortion restrictions passed in various states than with the recession and an overall decline in pregnancies and birthrates. 

Contra anti-choice rhetoric, America's abortion rate has been declining relatively steadily since the early 1980s. The CDC began keeping track of abortion statistics in 1969. Since then, the lowest abortion rate until now was seen in 1973 (16.3 abortions per 1,000 women) and the highest in 1980 (29.3 per 1,000 women).