Abortion is one of the most common medical procedures in the United States. About 1 in 5 pregnancies, excluding miscarriages, end in abortion.
U.S. abortion rates, according to the Guttmacher Institute, have declined from a high of 29.3 per 1,000 women age 15 to 44 in 1981 to 16.9 per 1,000 in 2011. Approximately 1.1 million legal abortions were performed in the United States in 2011.
On the basis of current abortion rates, about one in three women in the United States will have an abortion by age 45. There are many misconceptions about who has an abortion. As the following statistics demonstrate, women who have abortions cannot be put in a single category:
- Women between the ages of 20 and 24 obtain 33 percent of all abortions; women ages 25 to 29 obtain 24 percent; teenagers obtain 18 percent; women 35 and older obtain 11 percent [CDC].
- Non-Hispanic white women account for about 37 percent of abortions; Black women, 36 percent; Hispanic women, 21 percent; women of other races, 6 percent [CDC].
- Seven in 10 U.S. women obtaining an abortion report a religious affiliation (37 percent protestant, 28 percent Catholic and 7 percent other), and 25 percent attend religious services at least once a month [Guttmacher].
- Poor and low-income women account for more than half of all abortions; 42 percent of women obtaining abortions in 2008 had incomes below the federal poverty level, and an additional 27 percent were low income (with incomes up to twice federal poverty level) [Guttmacher]. In 2008, the federal poverty threshold was $10,991 for a single woman with no children.
- About 60 percent of abortions are obtained by women who have one or more children [CDC].
In 2010, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, almost 92 percent of abortions were performed within the first trimester (65.9 percent were performed at eight or fewer weeks gestation). Few abortions (6.9 percent) were performed at 14–20 weeks’ gestation, and even fewer (1.2 percent) were performed at 21 weeks gestation or later.
The most common reasons women give for having an abortion include concern for or responsibility to other individuals; inability to afford (another) child; interference with work, school, or the ability to care for dependents; difficulties with husbands or partners; and not wanting to be a single parent.