Abortion surveillance--United States, 2004

MMWR Surveill Summ. 2007 Nov 23;56(9):1-33.


Problem/condition: CDC began abortion surveillance in 1969 to document the number and characteristics of women obtaining legal induced abortions.

Reporting period covered: This report summarizes and describes data voluntarily reported to CDC regarding legal induced abortions obtained in the United States in 2004.

Description of system: For each year since 1969, CDC has compiled abortion data by state or area of occurrence. During 1973-1997, data were received from or estimated for 52 reporting areas in the United States: 50 states, the District of Columbia, and New York City. In 1998 and 1999, CDC compiled abortion data from 48 reporting areas. Alaska, California, New Hampshire, and Oklahoma did not report, and data for these states were not estimated. During 2000-2002, Oklahoma again reported these data, increasing the number of reporting areas to 49; for 2003 and 2004, Alaska again reported and West Virginia did not, maintaining the number of reporting areas at 49.

Results: A total of 839,226 legal induced abortions were reported to CDC for 2004 from 49 reporting areas, representing a 1.1% decline from the 848,163 legal induced abortions reported by 49 reporting areas for 2003. The abortion ratio, defined as the number of abortions per 1,000 live births, was 238 in 2004, a decrease from the 241 in 2003. The abortion rate was 16 per 1,000 women aged 15-44 years for 2004, the same since 2000. For the same 47 reporting areas, the abortion rate remained relatively constant during 1998-2004. In 2003 (the most recent years for which data are available), 10 women died as a result of complications from known legal induced abortion. No death was associated with known illegal abortion. The highest percentages of reported abortions were for women who were known to be unmarried (80%), white (53%), and aged <25 years (50%). Of all abortions for which gestational age was reported, 61% were performed at < or =8 weeks' gestation and 88% at <13 weeks. From 1992 (when detailed data regarding early abortions were first collected) through 2004, steady increases have occurred in the percentage of abortions performed at < or =6 weeks' gestation, except for a slight decline in 2003. A limited number of abortions were obtained at >15 weeks' gestation, including 4.0% at 16-20 weeks and 1.4% at > or =21 weeks. A total of 35 reporting areas submitted data stating that they performed and enumerated medical (nonsurgical) procedures, making up 9.7% of all known reported procedures from the 45 areas with adequate reporting on type of procedure.

Interpretation: During 1990--1997, the number of legal induced abortions gradually declined. When the same 47 reporting areas are compared, the number of abortions decreased during 1996-2001, then slightly increased in 2002 and again decreased in 2003 and 2004. In 2000 and 2001, even with one additional reporting state, the number of abortions declined slightly, with a minimal increase in 2002 and a further decrease in both 2003 and 2004. In 2003, as in the previous years, deaths related to legal induced abortions occurred rarely.

Public health action: Abortion surveillance in the United States continues to provide the data necessary for examining trends in numbers and characteristics of women who obtain legal induced abortions and to increase understanding of this pregnancy outcome. Policymakers and program planners use these data to improve the health and well-being of women and infants.

MeSH terms

  • Abortion, Legal / statistics & numerical data*
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Population Surveillance
  • United States / epidemiology