Abortion Surveillance System
No official accurate abortion statistics exist. Unlike Death certificates, there is no reporting requirement for abortion. There are estimates, usually based on the agenda of the estimator. Based on the review of CDC’s cited sources, the margin of error is between 20% to 40%. The CDC reports abortions to the one place holder, which gives the impression of great accuracy. This supposed exactness is wholly misleading, according to accepted statistical reporting, as shown below.
The Center for Disease Control’s web site explains the history of abortion statistical reporting in the United States as follows, in a question and answer format.
CDCs Abortion Surveillance System FAQs
- Are states required to submit their abortion statistics to CDC?
No, states and areas voluntarily report data to CDC for inclusion in its annual Abortion Surveillance Report. CDC’s Division of Reproductive Health prepares surveillance reports as data become available. There is no national requirement for data submission or reporting. States needing guidance on abortion surveillance may contact CDC at Contact CDC-INFO.
2) How does the CDC define abortion?
For the purpose of surveillance, a legal induced abortion is defined as an intervention performed by a licensed clinician (e.g., a physician, nurse-midwife, nurse practitioner, physician assistant) within the limits of state regulations that is intended to terminate a suspected or known ongoing intrauterine pregnancy and that does not result in a live birth. Most states and reporting areas that collect abortion data now report if an abortion was medical or surgical. Medical abortions are legal procedures that use medications instead of surgery.
- When did the CDC abortion surveillance start?
CDC began abortion surveillance in 1969 to document the number and characteristics of women obtaining legal induced abortions. Many states and reporting areas conduct abortion surveillance. CDC compiles the information these reporting areas collect to produce national estimates. CDC’s surveillance system compiles information on legal induced abortions only.
- How is the abortion surveillance report prepared and formatted?
Preparation of the Abortion Surveillance Reports is based on the data available from the states and reporting areas that voluntarily provide this information for a given calendar year. In addition, after CDC receives the data, some additional time is required to perform the analyses that produce the tables, the charts, and the narrative describing methods and trends. Please view the abstract and methods portion of the most recent Abortion Surveillance Report for more information on compilation of the report.
5) How is the Abortion Surveillance Report used?
This report is used for many purposes in the field of public health, including:
- Identify characteristics of women who are at high risk of unintended pregnancy
- Evaluate the success of programs aimed at preventing unintended pregnancies
- Calculate pregnancy rates, on the basis of the number of pregnancies ending in abortion, in conjunction with birth data and pregnancy loss estimates
- Monitor changes in clinical practice patterns related to abortion, such as changes in the types of procedures used and weeks of gestation at the time of abortion
- Calculate the national legal induced abortion case-fatality rate
Surveillance systems, such as this one, continue to provide data necessary to examine trends in public health.
In 2016, 623,471 legal induced abortions were reported to CDC from 48 reporting areas. The abortion rate for 2016 was 11.6 abortions per 1,000 women aged 15-44 years, and the abortion ratio was 186 abortions per 1,000 live births.
*** Women in their twenties accounted for the majority of abortions in 2016 and throughout the period of analysis. The majority of abortions in 2016 took place early in gestation – 91.0% of abortions were performed a [equal or under] 13 weeks’ gestation; a smaller number of abortions (7.5%) were performed at 14-20 weeks’ gestation, and even fewer (1.2%) were performed at [equal or more than] 21 weeks’ gestation. Source – MMWR Surveill Summ 2019; 68(No. SS-11).
The source full title is The Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report Surveillance Summaries / November 29, 2019 / 68(11);1–41 cited [with edited parts] at
First, because reporting to CDC is voluntary and reporting requirements are established by the individual reporting areas (27), CDC is unable to obtain the total number of abortions performed in the United States. Although most reporting areas collect and send abortion data to CDC, three of the 52 reporting areas (California, Maryland, and New Hampshire) did not provide CDC data for 2007–2016,
During 2007–2016, the total numbers of abortions reported to CDC annually were 68%–71% of the total numbers of abortions reported by the Guttmacher Institute survey.
*** [A]s of 2016, reporting to a central health agency was not required in DC or New Jersey.
Second, because reporting requirements are established by the individual reporting areas, many states use reporting forms that differ from the technical standards and guidance that CDC developed in collaboration with the National Association for Public Health Statistics and Information Systems. Consequently, many reporting areas do not collect all the information CDC compiles on the characteristics of women obtaining abortions (e.g., maternal age, race, and ethnicity) or do not report the data in a manner consistent with this guidance (e.g., gestational age).
*** the number of states that report data to CDC by race/ethnicity continues to be somewhat lower than for other demographic variables. Certain reporting areas that have not reported to CDC or have not reported cross-classified race/ethnicity data (e.g., California, Florida, and Illinois) have sufficiently large populations of minority women that the absence of data from these areas reduces the representativeness of CDC data.
Despite challenges in capturing medical abortions for reporting (8,16,26,77), a previous comparison of CDC data with mifepristone sales data§§§§§ suggests that CDC’s Abortion Surveillance System accurately describes trends in early medical abortion (78). However, because of recent changes in clinical practice guidelines for the use of mifepristone and misoprostol through 9 completed weeks of gestation, CDC’s definition of early medical abortion does not represent all abortions performed through this method.
Third, abortion data are compiled and reported to CDC by the central health agency of the reporting area in which the abortion was performed rather than the reporting area in which the woman lived.
Finally, the availability of demographic information is limited to what is collected on reporting forms. Therefore, performing stratified analyses by additional demographic variables (e.g., socioeconomic status) is not possible.
Footnote. †† States that did not report for [one or more] ≥1 year since 1998 include Alaska (1998–2000), California (1998–2015), Louisiana (2005), Maryland (2007–2015), New Hampshire (1998–2015), Oklahoma (1998–1999), and West Virginia (2003–2004)
** Excludes four reporting areas that did not report (California, DC, Maryland, and New Hampshire), and one (Florida) that did not report by maternal residence.
† †† Includes aspiration curettage, suction curettage, manual vacuum aspiration, menstrual extraction, sharp curettage, and dilation and evacuation procedures.
Back story. The decision in Roe versus Wade voided all abortion restriction laws in the United States in 1973. This legal vacuum created issues. One issue proposed to extend death certificate laws to cover abortion. This was resisted on the recognition that it would assume or imply, that the pregnancy included a person. If there was a death certificate, the reasoning might lead next to flowers, cards and other condolences, then to an obituary, and on to funeral, wake, cremation or coffin, sepulcher, headstone, last rite, sexton, mourning, estate settlement, internment, mummification, embalming, cryopreservation, organ donor, dark somber clothing, naming, blessing, and so forth. The potential for confusion was instantly recognized. Hence, all efforts to require abortion reports to government public health were quickly rejected.
Competing with this anti report position was the desire to show that abortion was an accepted and common medical procedure. A non government organization to support abortion came to the front. The Guttmacher Institute claimed to conduct an annual survey of abortion providing facilities, to give abortion estimates. All of this was in the 1970s. By 2020, the CDC cites the Guttmacher Institute 28 times in the MMWR above.
The Guttmacher Institute has an agenda >wwww.Guttmacher.org< which, as of 23 September 202, has this headline –
Why A More Conservative U.S. Supreme Court Would Be Devastating For Reproductive Rights – an even more conservative Supreme Court, could have unimaginable power to rapidly undo countless societal advances and put numerous marginalized and oppressed communities in imminent danger.
Guttmacher’s partners include International Planned Parethood Federation, LPAS.org, and World Health Organization. The only accurate abortion statistics are by those self reporting the abortions they perform.
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