The comparative safety of legal induced abortion and childbirth in the United States

Obstet Gynecol. 2012 Feb;119(2 Pt 1):215-9. doi: 10.1097/AOG.0b013e31823fe923.


Objective: To assess the safety of abortion compared with childbirth.

Methods: We estimated mortality rates associated with live births and legal induced abortions in the United States in 1998-2005. We used data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Pregnancy Mortality Surveillance System, birth certificates, and Guttmacher Institute surveys. In addition, we searched for population-based data comparing the morbidity of abortion and childbirth.

Results: The pregnancy-associated mortality rate among women who delivered live neonates was 8.8 deaths per 100,000 live births. The mortality rate related to induced abortion was 0.6 deaths per 100,000 abortions. In the one recent comparative study of pregnancy morbidity in the United States, pregnancy-related complications were more common with childbirth than with abortion.

Conclusion: Legal induced abortion is markedly safer than childbirth. The risk of death associated with childbirth is approximately 14 times higher than that with abortion. Similarly, the overall morbidity associated with childbirth exceeds that with abortion.

Level of evidence: II.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Abortion, Legal / adverse effects
  • Abortion, Legal / mortality*
  • Delivery, Obstetric / adverse effects
  • Delivery, Obstetric / mortality*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Live Birth
  • Maternal Mortality
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications / epidemiology*
  • United States / epidemiology