Problem/condition: In 1969, CDC began abortion surveillance to document the number and characteristics of women obtaining legal induced abortions, to monitor unintended pregnancy, and to assist efforts to identify and reduce preventable causes of morbidity and mortality associated with abortions.
Reporting period covered: This report summarizes and reviews information reported to CDC regarding legal induced abortions obtained in the United States in 1997.
Description of system: For each year since 1969, CDC has compiled abortion data by state where the abortion occurred. The data are received from 52 reporting areas in the United States: 50 states, the District of Columbia, and New York City.
Results: In 1997, a total of 1,186,039 legal abortions were reported to CDC, representing a 3% decrease from the number reported for 1996. The abortion ratio was 306 legal induced abortions per 1,000 live births, and since 1995, the abortion rate has remained at 20 per 1,000 women aged 15-44 years. The availability of information about characteristics of women who obtained an abortion in 1997 varied by state and by the number of states reporting each characteristic. The total number of legal induced abortions by state is reported by state of residence and state of occurrence; characteristics of women obtaining abortions in 1997 are reported by state of occurrence. Women who were undergoing an abortion were more likely to be young (i.e., aged < 25 years), white, and unmarried; approximately one half were obtaining an abortion for the first time. More than one half of all abortions for which gestational age was reported (55%) were performed at < or = 8 weeks of gestation, and 88% were performed before 13 weeks. Overall, 18% of abortions were performed at the earliest weeks of gestation (< or = 6 weeks), 18% at 7 weeks of gestation, and 20% at 8 weeks of gestation. From 1992 through 1997, increases have occurred in the percentage of abortions performed at the very early weeks of gestation. Few abortions were provided after 15 weeks of gestation--4% of abortions were obtained at 16-20 weeks, and 1.4% were obtained at > or = 21 weeks. A total of 19 reporting areas submitted information regarding abortions performed by medical (nonsurgical) procedures, comprising < 1% of procedures reported by all states. Younger women (i.e., aged < or = 24 years) were more likely to obtain abortions later in pregnancy than were older women.
Interpretation: From 1990 through 1995, the number of abortions declined each year; in 1996, the number increased slightly, and in 1997, the number of abortions in the United States declined to it lowest level since 1978.
Public health actions: The number and characteristics of women who obtain abortions in the United States should continue to be monitored so that trends in induced abortion can be assessed and efforts to prevent unintended pregnancy can be evaluated.