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Abortion surveillance — United States, 2015
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  • DOI:
    10.15585/mmwr.ss6713a1
  • Description:
    Problem/Condition: Since 1969, CDC has conducted abortion surveillance to document the number and characteristics of women obtaining legal induced abortions in the United States.

    Period Covered: 2015.

    Description of System: Each year, CDC requests abortion data from the central health agencies of 52 reporting areas (the 50 states, the District of Columbia, and New York City). The reporting areas provide this information voluntarily. For 2015, data were received from 49 reporting areas. Abortion data provided by these 49 reporting areas for each year during 2006–2015 were used in trend analyses. Census and natality data were used to calculate abortion rates (number of abortions per 1,000 women aged 15–44 years) and ratios (number of abortions per 1,000 live births), respectively.

    Results: A total of 638,169 abortions for 2015 were reported to CDC from 49 reporting areas. Among these 49 reporting areas, the abortion rate for 2015 was 11.8 abortions per 1,000 women aged 15–44 years, and the abortion ratio was 188 abortions per 1,000 live births. From 2014 to 2015, the total number of reported abortions decreased 2% (from 652,639), the abortion rate decreased 2% (from 12.1 abortions per 1,000 women aged 15–44 years), and the abortion ratio decreased 2% (from 192 abortions per 1,000 live births). From 2006 to 2015, the total number of reported abortions decreased 24% (from 842,855), the abortion rate decreased 26% (from 15.9 abortions per 1,000 women aged 15–44 years), and the abortion ratio decreased 19% (from 233 abortions per 1,000 live births). In 2015, all three measures reached their lowest level for the entire period of analysis (2006–2015).

    In 2015 and throughout the period of analysis, women in their 20s accounted for the majority of abortions and had the highest abortion rates; women aged ≥30 years accounted for a smaller percentage of abortions and had lower abortion rates. In 2015, women aged 20–24 and 25–29 years accounted for 31.1% and 27.6% of all reported abortions, respectively, and had abortion rates of 19.9 and 17.9 abortions per 1,000 women aged 20–24 and 25–29 years, respectively. In contrast, women aged 30–34, 35–39, and ≥40 years accounted for 17.7%, 10.0%, and 3.5% of all reported abortions, respectively, and had abortion rates of 11.6, 7.0, and 2.5 abortions per 1,000 women aged 30–34, 35–39, and ≥40 years, respectively. From 2006 to 2015, the abortion rate decreased among women in all age groups.

    In 2015, adolescents aged <15 and 15–19 years accounted for 0.3% and 9.8% of all reported abortions, respectively, and had abortion rates of 0.5 and 6.7 abortions per 1,000 adolescents aged <15 and 15–19 years, respectively. From 2006 to 2015, the percentage of abortions accounted for by adolescents aged 15–19 years decreased 41%, and their abortion rate decreased 54%. This decrease in abortion rate was greater than the decreases for women in any older age group.

    In contrast to the percentage distribution of abortions and abortion rates by age, abortion ratios in 2015 and throughout the entire period of analysis were highest among adolescents and lowest among women aged 25–39 years. Abortion ratios decreased from 2006 to 2015 for women in all age groups.

    In 2015, almost two thirds (65.4%) of abortions were performed at ≤8 weeks’ gestation, and nearly all (91.1%) were performed at ≤13 weeks’ gestation. Few abortions were performed between 14 and 20 weeks’ gestation (7.6%) or at ≥21 weeks’ gestation (1.3%). During 2006–2015 the percentage of all abortions performed at >13 weeks’ gestation remained consistently low (≤9.0%). Among abortions performed at ≤13 weeks’ gestation, a shift occurred toward earlier gestational ages, with the percentage performed at ≤6 weeks’ gestation increasing 11%.

    In 2015, 24.6% of all abortions were performed by early medical abortion (a nonsurgical abortion at ≤8 weeks’ gestation), 64.3% were performed by surgical abortion at ≤13 weeks’ gestation, and 8.8% were performed by surgical abortion at >13 weeks’ gestation; all other methods were uncommon (≤2.2%). Among those that were eligible for early medical abortion on the basis of gestational age (i.e., performed at ≤8 weeks’ gestation), 35.8% were completed by this method.

    In 2015, women with one or more previous live births accounted for 59.3% of abortions, and women with no previous live births accounted for 40.7%. Women with one or more previous induced abortions accounted for 43.6% of abortions, and women with no previous abortion accounted for 56.3%. Women with three or more previous births accounted for 14.2% of abortions, and women with three or more previous abortions accounted for 8.2% of abortions.

    Deaths of women associated with complications from abortion for 2015 are being assessed as part of CDC’s Pregnancy Mortality Surveillance System. In 2014, the most recent year for which data were available, six women were identified to have died as a result of complications from legal induced abortion.

    Interpretation: Among the 49 areas that reported data every year during 2006–2015, decreases in the total number, rate, and ratio of reported abortions resulted in historic lows for the period of analysis for all three measures of abortion.

    Public Health Action: The data in this report can help program planners and policymakers identify groups of women with the highest rates of abortion. Unintended pregnancy is the major contributor to induced abortion. Increasing access to and use of effective contraception can reduce unintended pregnancies and further reduce the number of abortions performed in the United States.

    Suggested citation for this article: Jatlaoui TC, Boutot ME, Mandel MG, et al. Abortion Surveillance — United States, 2015. MMWR Surveill Summ 2018;67(No. SS-13):1–45. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15585/mmwr.ss6713a1.

    ss6713a1-H.pdf

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