The rate of abortions in the United States fell by 5%, the largest single-year decrease in a decade, researchers for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported.
The decline is outlined in the annual abortion surveillance data for the year 2009, the latest available. It was published on Wednesday in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.
About 18% of all pregnancies in the United States end in abortion, the CDC noted. Factors from the availability of abortion providers, state laws, the general economy and access to health services including contraception, can all influence the abortion rate, according to the CDC. An important way to reduce abortions is to eliminate unwanted pregnancies.
“Despite these multiple influences, given that unintended pregnancy precedes nearly all abortions, efforts to reduce the incidence of abortion need to focus on helping women avoid pregnancies that they do not desire,” the survey states. “Providing women and men with the knowledge and resources necessary to make decisions about their sexual behavior and use of contraception can help them avoid unintended pregnancies.”
The CDC has been reporting annually on the number and rate of abortions since 1969. The annual numbers are based on voluntary reports from states and some other municipalities. A few states, such as California, which is the most populous, do not report. That explains why the CDC said there were about 785,000 abortions in 2009, while other estimates put the number at more than 1 million.
To make comparisons possible, the CDC said it used the data from 43 states and two cities that have been reporting the numbers each year for 10 years. Those areas account for 772,630 abortions in 2009, or about 98.5% of the total reported to the federal agency.
The abortion rate for 2009 was 15.1 abortions per 1,000 women of child-bearing years, defined as 15 to 44 years old. The abortion ratio was 227 abortions per 1,000 live births. Those numbers represent a 5% decrease in the total number and rate of abortions from 2008 and the largest single-year drop during the decade that began in 2000. There was a 2% drop in one year in the abortion ratio, the CDC said.
From 2000 to 2009, the total number, rate, and ratio of reported abortions decreased 6%, 7%, and 8%, respectively, to the lowest levels at the end of the decade, it said.
Mississippi had the lowest abortion rate, at 4 per 1,000 women of child-bearing age. The state also had only a couple of abortion providers and has the nation’s highest teen birthrate. New York, second to California in number of abortion providers, had the highest abortion rate, about eight times that of Mississippi.
White women had the lowest abortion rate, at about 8.5 per 1,000 women of child-bearing age, while the rate for African American women was four times larger. Latinas’ abortion rate was about 19 per 1,000 women of child-bearing years.