By Randall K. O’Bannon, Ph.D., NRL Director of Education & Research
The government’s latest report confirms the good news reported by Guttmacher earlier this year. That not only the number of abortions in the U.S. have dropped to lows not seen since the earliest days of legal abortion in America, so, too, have abortion rates and abortion ratios.
The 730,322 abortions reported to the federal Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in 2011 do not include any from California, Maryland, or New Hampshire, which did not make them available. Guttmacher reported 1,058,470 for the same year. (As we explain fully below, Guttmacher’s numbers will always be higher because it directly surveys abortion “providers.”)
But it is significant that this is the lowest figure the CDC has reported since dropping California, New Hampshire, and at least one other state in 1998.
Long term drops in abortion rates and ratios make it clear that we are in the midst of a historic trend. The 13.9 abortion rate (the number of abortions per thousand women ages 15-44) is lower than any rate recorded by the CDC since abortion became legal in the U.S. in 1973.
Granted, abortions from California or other states missing since 1998 might have given us somewhat higher rates. When numbers from California were available, the abortion rates for the U.S. were about 2 to 3 points higher than those calculated without them. But that does not change that the 2011 abortion rate of 13.9 has dropped by nearly half (44.4%) from what it was at its high point in 1980: 25 abortions per thousand women of reproductive age.
Likewise, the abortion ratio (the number of abortions for every 1,000 live births) is at a historic low, with 219 abortions for every thousand births.  The same caveat mentioned above about missing California numbers applies here. But the enormous drop from 359.2 abortion for every 1,000 births in 1980 to the 219 for every 1,000 for 2011 cannot simply be explained by missing states with high abortion proclivities.
CDC versus Guttmacher
Around Thanksgiving every year, the CDC publishes its annual report of national abortion data. This year’s report “Abortion Surveillance – United States, 2011″ issued November 28, 2014 (it takes the government a few years to collect and process the state data), shows the number and rate of abortions dropping by 5% over the previous year. The ratio of abortion to live births declining by nearly as much, 4%.
The Guttmacher Institute’s report, issued earlier this year, showed similar significant drops in the number of abortions, though starting from higher numbers. As we have explained, Guttmacher surveys abortion clinics directly while the CDC relies on state health reports, meaning Guttmacher’s numbers will always be higher than CDC’s.
With respect to CDC, some state data is better than others, and not every state reports data to the CDC; abortion numbers from the nation’s most populous state, California is missing from this latest report, along with data from Maryland and New Hampshire.
For all of these reasons, Guttmacher’s totals are considered to be more accurate. The offset, however, is Guttmacher only reports every few years or so.
By contrast, the CDC reports its data every year. And because it generally tracks the same variables from year to year, the CDC report is a very useful tool for studying abortion demographics and confirming trends.
The CDC suggests that economics could have played a part in the decline in the number of abortions, which may be so. But with the long term drop in abortions and abortion rates and abortion ratios being seen in times of both economic booms and busts, the correlation is hard to nail down.
“Increasing acceptance of non-marital childbearing” is offered as one more possible explanation for the reduced incidence of abortion, but data point to something more. The statistics indeed show us that more children who would have been aborted are now being born. However there has not been a measurable increase in U.S. birth rates that matches up well with decreasing abortion rates.
Though the CDC does not seem to put a lot of weight on factors such as pro-life legislation such as parental involvement, waiting period laws, state regulations on clinics, and does not appear to consider that the lower numbers may reflect changing public attitudes towards abortion, these developments do seem to offer an explanation coherent with the data.
Americans are obviously tiring of a “solution” to an unplanned pregnancy that it has discovered to be no solution at all. Faced with the grisly reality of abortion, the gruesome truth about America’s abortionists, and, thanks to right to know laws and selfless pro-life volunteers reaching out to young women in crisis, the knowledge that there are practical, realistic alternatives to abortion that are better for both them and their babies, more women are choosing life.
We will provide more details on demographic data from the CDC report tomorrow.
 This does not include miscarriages or stillbirths, so cannot be easily turned into an abortion percentage. Other CDC sources attempting to count these have put the percentage of pregnant women aborting their babies at 18%.