Roe’s Legacy: More than 62.5 Million Lives Lost

By Randall K. O’Bannon, Ph.D., NRL Director of Education & Research

As you see in the accompanying chart that we have linked to, we have made substantial progress in reducing the number of abortions and lowering the abortion rate over the past thirty years. At the same time, though, as long as abortion is legal, each year we will keep adding to the total of lives lost to America’s greatest holocaust.

The latest reliable national annual figure we have comes from the Guttmacher Institute which, although pro-abortion, does the most complete data gathering. For the year 2017, Guttmacher estimated the number of abortions performed in the U.S. was 862,320.

That is the lowest figure Guttmacher has reported since 1973 when the Supreme Court legalized abortion nationwide. That number is just a bit more than half of what the toll was in 1990 when Guttmacher recorded more than 1.6 million abortions.

Projecting a cumulative total

We have used that 2017 Guttmacher figure to project equivalent numbers for 2018, 2019, and 2020 and then used those in tallying the cumulative number of abortions since Roe.

An additional 3% is added to totals from 1973 through 2014, reflecting a 3-5% undercount Guttmacher has estimated for those figures.

Another 12,000 abortions were added for each year since 2015 to reflect the caseload of “providers” Guttmacher says it may have missed in its 2015-2017 counts.

That data added together yields a cumulative total of 62,502,904 abortions since 1973. This is more that the population our country’s most populous state (California) and a number greater than the combined population of our 23 least populous states.

To get another take on the enormity of that loss, a nation with a population of 62.5 million would rank about twenty third on the list of the world’s most populous countries.

In terms of population, a nation that size would rank ahead of such countries as Italy, Spain, Kenya, South Africa, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Argentina, Columbia, Venezuela, Hong Kong, Cambodia, South Korea, or Canada.

CDC hints at abortion’s future

Recently released figures from the CDC reinforce the conclusion that a new low in the number of abortions may have been reached but suggest that a slight increase may be in the offing due largely to the increased number of chemical abortions.

The CDC reported 612,719 abortions for 2017 and then a slight uptick to 619,820 for 2018.

These numbers tell us something, but should be viewed with caution.
Numbers from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) have not included data from California, New Hampshire and at least one other state since 1998, so its annual abortion totals are always much lower than Guttmacher’s.

The CDC’s substantially lower numbers are thus a function of missing data from several key states and its reliance on state health departments. Guttmacher obtains it data from more aggressive direct contacts with “abortion providers.” So it may take a few years to determine whether or not the CDC’s most recent slight increase reflects a new upward trend.

Chemical abortion bending the curve upward

If an increase occurs, it will likely be to the increased promotion and use of chemical abortions which have risen steadily since the FDA’s approval of the abortifacient mifepristone in 2000. So-called “medication abortions” have increased even while surgical abortions have been declining and the number of clinics has been shrinking in the U.S.

Efforts of the abortion industry and its political allies to promote telemedical chemical abortions, where abortionist never sees the woman in person, will surely exacerbate this trend.

To reiterate, the long term trend in the number of abortions is definitely downward, even in the midst of overall population increases. It is clear that the legislative, educational, political, and outreach strategies of the pro-life movement have been effective.

The numbers make clear both that we have come a long way and that we have a long way left to go.