Abortion incidence and access to services in the United States, 2008

Perspect Sex Reprod Health. 2011 Mar;43(1):41-50. doi: 10.1363/4304111. Epub 2011 Jan 10.


Context: The incidence of abortion has declined nearly every year between 1990 and 2005, but this trend may be ending, or at least leveling off. Access to abortion services is a critical issue, particularly since the number of abortion providers has been falling for the last three decades.

Methods: In 2009 and 2010, all facilities known or expected to have provided abortion services in 2007 and 2008 were contacted, including hospitals, clinics and physicians' offices. Data on the number of abortions performed were collected and combined with population data to estimate national and state-level abortion rates. Abortion incidence, provision of early medication abortion, gestational limits, charges and antiabortion harassment were assessed by provider type and abortion caseload.

Results: In 2008, an estimated 1.21 million abortions were performed in the United States. The abortion rate increased 1% between 2005 and 2008, from 19.4 to 19.6 abortions per 1,000 women aged 15-44; the total number of abortion providers was virtually unchanged. Small changes in national abortion incidence and number of providers masked substantial changes in some states. Accessibility of services changed little: In both years, 35% of women of reproductive age lived in the 87% of counties that lacked a provider. Fifty-seven percent of nonhospital providers experienced antiabortion harassment in 2008; levels of harassment were particularly high in the Midwest (85%) and the South (75%).

Conclusions: The long-term decline in abortion incidence has stalled. Higher levels of harassment in some regions suggest the need to enact and enforce laws that prohibit the more intrusive forms of harassment.

MeSH terms

  • Abortifacient Agents, Steroidal / administration & dosage
  • Abortion, Legal / economics
  • Abortion, Legal / statistics & numerical data*
  • Abortion, Legal / trends*
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Ambulatory Care Facilities / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Health Services Accessibility / economics
  • Health Services Accessibility / statistics & numerical data*
  • Hospitals / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Mifepristone / administration & dosage
  • Physicians' Offices / statistics & numerical data
  • Pregnancy
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Young Adult


  • Abortifacient Agents, Steroidal
  • Mifepristone