Communications Department

Guttmacher Survey of Abortion Providers Finds Reported Number of Partial-Birth Abortions More Than Tripled

Jan 14, 2003 | 2003 Press Releases

This is a press release from the National Right to Life Committee (NRLC) in Washington, D.C., issued Tuesday, January 14, 2003, at 3:30 p.m. ET.  For further information, call the NRLC Department of Media Relations at 202-626-8833, or visit the NRLC website at

A just-released survey of abortion providers by the Alan Guttmacher Institute (AGI) showed the reported number of partial-birth abortions more than tripling from the same organization’s survey four years ago.

The AGI survey for 1996 (released in 1998) for the first time asked a question relating to partial-birth abortion (which they called “D&X”), and then estimated that “about 650” such abortions were performed annually in the U.S.   Stanley Henshaw of the Alan Guttmacher Institute was quoted as saying, “The numbers aren’t exact, but I’m pretty sure it’s in the 500 to 1,000 range” (The New York Times, Dec. 11, 1998).  Despite grave defects in the method by which that number was arrived at, and its obvious inconsistency with other evidence, the figure was immediately accepted as credible by some news media, and since has been cited by various news outlets and pro-abortion advocates.

The new survey, using the same method, estimates that 2,200 “D&X” (partial-birth) abortions were performed during 2000 — more than tripling the 1996 figure.

“The number of partial-birth abortions reported has more than tripled in just four years,” commented NRLC Legislative Director Douglas Johnson.  “Either the number of partial-birth abortions is increasing rapidly, or the news media was mistaken in accepting the 1996 figure, or both. In reality, there is good evidence that even the new figure of 2,200 is much too low.”

In the new study, AGI tries to minimize the significance of the 2,200 figure by saying that it amounts to only a fraction of 1% of all reported abortions. Johnson commented, “It is unbelievably callous to dismiss the killing of 2,200 mostly delivered babies as ‘rare.’  If a virus was killing 2,200 pre-mature infants, we’d call it an epidemic.”

Johnson noted that the survey question describes the abortion method in a way that is so confused and inaccurate that even abortionists who have performed hundreds of partial-birth abortions, as legally defined, could honestly answer that they have never performed the procedure described in the question.  Secondly, responses to the AGI survey are purely voluntary, and abortionists who perform large numbers of partial-birth abortions may be disinclined to feed the national controversy by voluntarily reporting.

Johnson noted that in 1997, Ron Fitzsimmons, the executive director of the National Coalition of Abortion Providers, gave a series of well-publicized interviews in which he repudiated the claim that the partial-birth abortion procedure was used rarely and mostly in acute medical situations.  He said those claims were merely a “party line,” and were false.  The truth, Mr. Fitzsimmons said, was that “in the vast majority of cases, the procedure is performed on a healthy mother with a healthy fetus” (The New York Times, Feb. 26, 1997). He estimated that 4,000-5,000 abortions annually are performed by the partial-birth method.  That is a sizable fraction of all of the abortions performed in the fifth month and later.
For more information on the number of partial-birth abortions, see:

National Right to Life is the nation’s largest pro-life organization, with affiliates in all 50 states and over 3,000 local chapters nationwide.  National Right to Life works through legislation and education to protect those threatened by abortion, infanticide and euthanasia.