On November 25, 2011, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released its annual report with the most recent data and statistics on abortion in the United States, Abortion Surveillance --- United States, 2008.
The CDC has reported on abortion-related data annually since 1969. Generally these reports are very helpful and informative in terms of tracking and understanding larger trends and actual numbers related to abortion in the United States. The 2008 report is dense with information ranging from the ethnic background and age of the mother to the age of the baby when aborted, as well as the kind of abortion that took place. However, because states are not required to provide abortion data to the CDC, while the surveillance report offers important information and numbers about abortion in the U.S., it does not provide a complete and thorough depiction of abortion data in the U.S. By way of background, until 1998, every state annually reported abortion-related data to the CDC. But beginning in 1998, combinations of states began to refuse to submit abortion-related information to the CDC. Over the years non-reporting states have included California (1998-2008), New Hampshire (1998-2008), Oklahoma (1998-1999), Alaska (1998-2002), West Virginia (2003-2004), Louisiana (2005), and most recently, Maryland (2007-2008). Missing any state's information is problematic, but in particular, because California has the most abortions in the U.S., not including their data significantly skews the overall picture.
Adding to the confusion is the fact that states that do submit data to the CDC may pick and choose which information they provide. "...the level of detail that CDC receives on the characteristics of women obtaining abortions varies considerably from year to year and among reporting areas....because the collection of abortion data is not federally mandated, reporting areas can develop their own forms and do not necessarily collect all of the information that CDC compiles." (page 2) Since the CDC's abortion surveillance reports have incomplete numbers, policy-makers and other interested groups and people must rely on the Guttmacher Institute's statistics and analysis. However, research neutrality comes into question because Guttmacher was originally founded as the research arm of Planned Parenthood, the nation's largest abortion provider, although they have since formally separated.
The CDC report reads "CDC is unable to obtain the total number of abortions performed in the United States. During 1999--2008, the total annual number of abortions recorded by CDC was 65%--69% of the number recorded by the Guttmacher Institute, which uses numerous active follow-up techniques to increase the completeness of the data obtained through its periodic national survey of abortion providers." (page 6)
Also as reported last year, the report is again missing the abortion fatality rate. Page 5 reads, "Although national case-fatality rates (the number of abortion-related deaths per 100,000 reported legal induced abortions) have been published for 1972--1997, this measure could not be calculated with CDC data for 1998--2007; because a substantial number of abortions have been documented in states that did not report to CDC during 1998-2007."
One might consider that most statistical conclusions in the abortion surveillance reports since 1998 lacked some form of U.S. data. Therefore the claim that the abortion rate can not be estimated as other statistics have been does not appear to be reasonable. It would seem that the abortion rate should be able to be computed with the same limited information obtained by the states that other statistics are computed. The report has also not updated its latest abortion-related deaths from the previous report (with 2007 data).
Last year it was reported that for the states that reported data, in 2007, six women died in the U.S. as a result of complications related to abortion. (page 5) The updated 2008 number has not yet been released. However, while some information is missing, there is still much to be learned from what the data that is included in the report. Below are some basic statistics and numbers on abortion-related information in the U.S. in 2008.
More children were aborted in the U.S. (in reporting states) in 2008 than in 2007. "Among the 49 reporting areas that provided data for 2008, a total of 825,564 abortions were reported." (page 3) In 2007, the total number of abortions as reported by the CDC was 810,582, an increase of close to 15,000.
Most abortions were performed on women in their 20s. "Women aged 20-29 years accounted for the majority (57.1%) of all abortions in 2008. In 2008, women aged 20-29 years also had the highest abortion rates (29.6 abortions per 1,000 women aged 20-24 years and 21.6 abortions per 1,000 women aged 25-29 years). (page 3)
The report states that the majority of abortions are performed early in pregnancy. For 2008, the majority (62.8%) of abortions were performed at 8 weeks gestation, and 91.4% were performed at 13 weeks gestation. (Page 4) Few abortions (7.3%) were performed at 14-20 weeks gestation, and 1.3% were performed at 21 weeks gestation. (page 4)
In 2008, approximately 14.6% of women used RU-486, the dangerous abortion drug, and that approximately 75.9% of abortions
were surgical ("curettage") for abortion done at 13 weeks or earlier. (page 4)
Non-Hispanic black women accounted for 35.5% of all abortion while making up approximately only 12.6% of the population according to the Census Bureau); Hispanic women accounted for 21.1% of all abortion, while making up 16.3% of the population according to the Census Bureau. Non-Hispanic white women accounted for 37.2% of abortions, while making up 72.4% of the population according to the Census Bureau. (page 4) The CDC annual abortion surveillance reports are very informative and helpful, albeit incomplete, to those interested in women's health - both those women who are born, and those women (and men, too) who are unborn.