US Abortions at Lowest Level since 1973 Roe v. Wade Decision

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Source: The Economist, “Why the Number of Abortions in America Is at a Historic Low,”, Dec. 4, 2018

The total number of reported abortions decreased 24% from 842,855 in 2006 to 638,169 in 2015, the lowest number of abortions since the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision legalized abortion in the United States. The most recent CDC numbers available, from 2015, continue a downward trend since a peak in 1980.

The abortion rate (the number of abortions compared to the population) fell from 15.9 abortions per 1,000 women aged 15 to 44 to 11.8 abortions, a 26% decrease. And the abortion ratio (the number of pregnancies that end in abortion instead of birth) decreased 19% from 233 abortions per 1,000 live births to 188 abortions.

Abortions decreased among all age groups, however teen abortions fell most dramatically, with a 54% drop from 2006 to 2015. 58.7% of abortions occurred among women in their 20s. Abortions also decreased across all racial groups: non-Hispanic black women had the highest abortion rate at 25.1%, though non-Hispanic white women had the largest percentage of total abortions at 36.9%. Location also brought variances, with 2.8 abortions per 1,000 women in South Dakota compared to 23.1 in New York.

Among women who had abortions in 2015, 45.1% had one or two live births prior to the abortion. 91.1% of the abortions were performed at 13 weeks gestation or earlier, with 65.4% happening at eight weeks or earlier. Women with no previous abortions made up 56.3% of 2015 abortions.

The falling number of abortions follows a drop in the number of unintended pregnancies and a drop in teen pregnancies, which some attribute to wider access to and use of contraceptives. Rachel K. Jones, PhD, Principal Research Scientist for the Guttmacher Institute, stated, “Analyses have suggested that improved contraceptive use played a role in the long-term declines. In some states, decreased access to abortion services contributed, as well.” The Economist noted that between 2010 and 2016 states enacted 338 restrictions on access to abortion.

Chuck Donovan, President of the Charlotte Lozier Institute, stated, “a higher percentage of women today decide to carry an unexpected pregnancy to term, teenagers are less sexually active and with fewer partners, [and] pro-life views are more prevalent among the rising generation than they were 40 years ago.”


CDC, “Abortion Surveillance — United States, 2015,”, Nov. 23, 2018

Ariana Eunjung Cha, “Number of Abortions in U.S. Hit Historic Low in 2015, the Most Recent Year for Which Data Is Available,”, Nov. 21, 2018

Cheyenne Haslett, “Abortion Rates Continue Downward Trend, Hitting Lowest Numbers since Roe v. Wade Was Decided, CDC,”, Nov. 21, 2018

Jessica Ravitz, “Abortion Rates in US Reach a Decade Low, CDC Reports,”, Nov. 21, 2018

The Economist Explains, “Why the Number of Abortions in America Is at a Historic Low,”, Dec. 4, 2018

Sarah Kliff, “The American Abortion Rate Is at an All-Time Low,”, Dec. 3, 2018

Sarah McCammon, “U.S. Abortion Rate Falls to Lowest Level since Roe v. Wade,”, Jan. 17, 2017