By Randall K. O’Bannon, Ph.D., NRL Director of Education & Research
We have seen from earlier parts of this series that the abortion industry shows signs of a rebound after a quarter century of decline.
Abortion has increased, particularly in some states and among some groups. Not really knowing the pain or danger that they pose, women who might never have considered a surgical abortion have bought the hype on chemical abortions and turned to abortion pills, which keep getting easier to find.
This means that the typical abortion patient is a little bit older, probably unmarried, may be using a chemical abortifacient she received in the mail, and likely be aborting earlier in her pregnancy.
Today we will look at some other demographic information from the Abortion Surveillance report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) for 2020 and see what else it can tell us about the groups being especially targeted by the abortion industry.
Racial and ethnic disparities
The CDC is missing racial and ethnic data from a lot of states, including large states with large minority populations like California, New York, and Illinois. So it is difficult to make definitive statements about the national breadth of these trends, but the data it does have gives us a sense about the changing demographics of abortion.
About 36% in 2000, the CDC says that blacks accounted for 39.2% of all abortions in 2020.
Because the overall number of abortions in the United States was 27.7% lower for the CDC in 2020 than 2000, this still makes it possible for the raw number of abortions to blacks to decline, even as their portion of the national total increased. It simply means that their rates did not fall as much as other racial and ethnic groups.
The black abortion rate for 2020 was 24.4 abortions for every thousand women of reproductive age (15-44). The CDC says it was 30 for every thousand women of reproductive age in 2000.
The percentage of abortions to Hispanics also increased over the past twenty years, rising from 17.2 in 2000 to 21.1 in the CDC’s latest report. The CDC says their abortion rate in 2020 was 11.4. It was 16 abortions per thousand women (ages 15-44) for this group in 2000.
Together, this means blacks and Hispanics accounted for more than six out of every ten abortions performed in the U.S. If one adds in the 7% from the CDC’s “other” category (the CDC says this includes Asian, Pacific Islanders, as well as those of other or multiple races), this results in minorities having more than two-thirds of all abortions performed in the United States.
Even with both blacks and Hispanics reporting lower abortion numbers and abortion rates for 2020, this still puts figures for those groups significantly higher than the rates and totals the CDC found for whites. The CDC says whites accounted for 32.7% of abortions and an abortion rate of 6.2 abortions for every thousand women of reproductive age.
That the CDC shows abortions dropping across all racial and ethnic groups is encouraging and shows that some progress has been made by the pro-life movement in America. That abortion and abortion rates have fallen faster among whites than they have among minorities is an indication that additional outreach and education efforts need to continue to be done for minority communities so that more women and their babies will be able to escape the horror of abortion.
Previous births and abortions
The CDC continues to show, as it has for a number of years, that most women having abortions have already given birth to at least one child.
Figures for 2020 show that 24.5% of those obtaining abortions already had given birth to one child, 20.3% had two children, 9.7% had borne three children prior to their latest abortion, and 6.4% reported having had at least four previous births.
Together, this means that nearly 61% of those the CDC recorded having abortions in 2020 had, at least once, already gone through a full nine months of pregnancy and given birth to a child!
Many of these women have also had prior abortions. The CDC says that 24.1% reported one previous abortion, 10.5% reported two, and 7.8% reported three or more—a total of 42.4%.
This points, along with the earlier data, not to a nationwide epidemic of abortion, but to a particular demographic being targeted and sold abortion over and over, people who feel overwhelmed by the responsibilities of raising and caring for a child, often on their own.
Giving us a profile and a purpose
It is easy to get overwhelmed by all the numbers, but it helps to remember that each statistic represents a real person, a mother, a baby whose life is on the line.
These numbers here represent not just the lives but the stories of many who have, for one reason or another, become casualties of the culture of death. In many ways, their stories are the same. They find themselves facing an unexpected pregnancy, unsure of what to do, and turn to what the abortion industry offers as an easy out.
Of course, it is not easy at all! It costs the life of an innocent child, and it often carries a lifetime of pain and regret for the mother. But the industry’s sales campaign is often successful and the deed is done.
But as laws are passed, as women learn more about abortion and the development of their unborn children, and as pregnancy care centers make realistic alternatives available, more and more women have resisted the abortion industry’s advertising and inducements. And that has, over time, changed the profile of the typical abortion patient.
Though it certainly still happens, this more recent data is a clear indication that the typical abortion patient is not a young white teenager trying to keep her pregnancy secret from her parents. If this new demographic data is correct, she is more likely to be a young, unmarried minority woman in her 20s who already has at least one or more children at home.
The overturn of Roe means that some of these women will be in states where abortion is not as accessible as it once was, while others will be in places where abortion is marketed more heavily than ever.
This data won’t yet tell us the full impact of that watershed moment or what we’ll be able to accomplish legislatively. But it does tell us that women in both situations will need to find the practical and personal support that is available to them. They need to find communities ready to help them bear and raise their children, to encounter people who are ready to show them how to navigate the challenges that life brings.
It shows your work has made a difference and that it will be even more critical in the days ahead.