CDC report: Abortion down slightly in 2020, abortion pill use up 154% from 2011

abortion pill, COVID-19

According to 2020 data released by the Center for Disease Control (CDC), abortion numbers decreased slightly in 2020 while abortion pill use rose a whopping 154% since 2011. The November 25, 2022 report (released two days early) recorded 620,327 legally induced abortions reported to the CDC from 49 reporting areas.

The CDC data indicates that between 2019 (629,898) and 2020 (620,327), the total number of abortions saw a decrease of 1.54%, but were slightly higher than the 619,591 abortions recorded in 2018. This is marginally different from what Planned Parenthood’s former research arm, the Guttmacher Institute reported. Guttmacher’s 2020 estimates indicated a 1.5% increase between 2019 (916,460) and 2020 (930,160).

Abortion reporting data is not required by federal law, and as such, the CDC relies solely on data from the states that do require abortion reporting. Guttmacher, however, relies on surveys it sends to abortionists, and those overall numbers tend to be more comprehensive.

Image: Abortion numbers decreased between 2019 and 2020 CDC

Abortion numbers decreased between 2019 and 2020 CDC

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Continuously reporting areas

The CDC warns, “Because the reporting of abortion data to CDC is voluntary, many reporting areas have developed their own data collection forms and might not collect or provide all the information requested by CDC. As a result, the level of detail reported by CDC might vary from year to year and by reporting area.”

Because of this, much of the CDC data reflects information collected from 48 reporting areas — what it refers to as “continuously reporting areas” — not the 49 areas previously stated. “Of these abortions, 615,911 (99.3%) were from 48 reporting areas that provided data every year during 2011–2020,” the CDC reported.

Abortion rate and ratio

In 2020, the abortion rate for these “continuously reporting areas” was 11.2 abortions per 1,000 women aged 15–44 years, a decrease of 2% from 2019. Also in 2020, the abortion ratio was 198 abortions per 1,000 live births, an increase of 2% from 2019, according to the CDC.

“From 2011 to 2020, the total number of reported abortions decreased 15% (from 727,554), the abortion rate decreased 18% (from 13.7 abortions per 1,000 women aged 15–44 years), and the abortion ratio decreased 9% (from 217 abortions per 1,000 live births),” the CDC stated.

It also noted, “In 2020, there was a considerable range by reporting area of occurrence in abortion rates (from 0.1 to 23.0 abortions per 1,000 women aged 15–44 years in Missouri and the District of Columbia) and abortion ratios (from two to 498 abortions per 1,000 live births in Missouri and the District of Columbia).”

“The percentage of abortions obtained by out-of-area residents also varied among reporting areas (from 0.5% in Arizona to 70.7% in the District of Columbia),” the CDC explained.

Use of the abortion pill

According to the CDC, among the 46 areas that reported by abortion procedure type for 2020 and included the abortion pill on their reporting form, 51.0% of abortions were carried out by abortion pill early in pregnancy. This is similar to what was reported earlier this year by the Guttmacher Institute, which found that in 2020, 54% (more than half) of all abortions involved the abortion pill.


“During 2011−2020, a total of 37 reporting areas (excludes Alabama, California, the District of Columbia, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Tennessee, Vermont, Wisconsin, and Wyoming) provided continuous data and included medical abortion on their reporting form,” the CDC clarified.

It noted that among those 37 areas, the early use of the abortion pill increased by 22% from 2019 to 2020 (from 41.1% to 50.0% of abortions) and 154% from 2011 to 2020 (from 19.7% to 50.0% of abortions).

Women in their 20s accounted for more than half of abortions

In 2020, women in their 20s accounted for more than half of abortions. “Among the 43 reporting areas that provided data each year by women’s age for 2011–2020, this pattern across age groups was stable, with the highest percentages of abortions and the highest abortion rates occurring among women aged 20–29 years and the lowest percentages of abortions and lowest abortion rates occurring among adolescents aged <15 years and women aged ≥40 years,” the CDC wrote.


Black women accounted for highest percentage, rate, and ratio of abortions

“Among the 30 areas that reported race by ethnicity data for 2020, non-Hispanic White women (White) and non-Hispanic Black women (Black) accounted for the highest percentages of all abortions (32.7% and 39.2%, respectively), and Hispanic women and non-Hispanic women in the other race category accounted for lower percentages (21.1% and 7.0%, respectively),” the CDC wrote.

White women had the lowest abortion rate (6.2 abortions per 1,000 women aged 15–44 years) and ratio (118 abortions per 1,000 live births), and Black women had the highest abortion rate (24.4 abortions per 1,000 women aged 15–44 years) and ratio (426 abortions per 1,000 live births), according to the CDC report.

Abortion Deaths

An abortion-related death is defined by the CDC as “a death resulting from a direct complication of an abortion (legal or illegal), an indirect complication caused by a chain of events initiated by an abortion, or an aggravation of a pre-existing condition by the physiologic effects of abortion. An abortion is categorized as legal when it is performed by a licensed clinician within the limits of state law.”

Live Action News previously reported that the CDC recorded nearly 450 women’s deaths from legal abortion between 1973 and 2018 with additional amounts reportedly killed in illegal abortions. For 2019, “the most recent year for which data were reviewed for abortion-related deaths” the CDC claims to have “identified four abortion-related deaths,” the government agency wrote.

Live Action News intends to provide a more extensive analysis of the data in a future analysis.

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