NRL News

Behind the CDC numbers

by | Nov 30, 2012

By Dave Andrusko

As we come to the end of the third week post-election, I’d like to reflect further on the data produced by the Centers for Disease Control. You know the figure that has (rightfully) attracted the most attention: from the 2008 to 2009 there was a 5% decline in abortions.

CDC’s totals are not the real number of abortions performed. Unlike the Guttmacher Institute, the CDC is a more passive recipient of data and its figures don’t include such huge states as California. We might or might get numbers next month from Guttmacher which would tell us whether this pro-abortion think-tank has found a similar (and most welcomed) decline.

But embedded in the CDC numbers are very sobering reminders. Before I list six, let me make the point that everyone has their explanation for the decline but no one can say definitively. Pro-abortionists like to point to contraceptive use even when the survey says use is down. Pro-lifers point to pro-life state laws, the role of ultrasounds in subtly raising consciousness, and the support system offered by crisis pregnancy centers, also known as pregnancy help centers.  

The following numbers are drawn from the analysis of Dr. Randall K. O’Bannon, National Right to Life’s  Director of Education & Research.

#1. The number of abortions reported for 2009 (784,507) is 41,057 fewer than it was for 2008. The abortion rate (15.1 abortions per 1,000 women aged 15-44) and abortion ratio (241.6 abortions for every 1,000 live births) are the lowest reported by the CDC since the advent of legal abortion in 1973.

#2. In 1980 CDC reported that 29.2% of all abortions were to young women age 19 or younger.  By stark contrast in 2009, the CDC puts that percentage at 16%, illustrating the impact of parental involvement laws, but also revealing that older women are having many more of the abortions.

#3. Second and third trimester abortions were down. Among states reporting gestational age to the CDC, 8.1% of all abortions were performed after 13 weeks in 2009, and just 1.3% at 21 weeks or more. This undoubtedly is because of the greater use of chemical abortifacients. But bear in mind while the percentage may be low, the absolute number is not. For example, 8.1% of 784,507 would be 63,545. If projected on to the larger 1,212,400 figure reported by Guttmacher for 2008, 8.1% would represent 98,204 babies aborted after 13 weeks!

#4. Abortion continues to especially plague the Latino and African-American communities. While the abortion rate was 8.4 per 1,000 for white women, it was 20.2/1,000 for Hispanic women, more than double. It was even more devastating among black women–29/1,000—which is more than three and one-half times the rate for white women. (It actually may well be worse; states define and report race and ethnicity in different ways.)

#5. A number from Guttmacher and not CDC: The number of abortionists has declined about 24.6% since 1992, from 2,340 to 1,793 in 2008. However, over all, those numbers have been fairly stable since 2000, when there were 1,819 abortionists.  A steady stream of abortionists has continued to leave the practice, but others, particularly with the advent of chemical abortifacients like RU-486, have picked up the deadly mantle.

#6. Perhaps the most sobering statistic of all. CDC figures continue to show what previous CDC reports and surveys from Guttmacher confirm : that most women having abortions have already given birth to at least one child.  According to the CDC, almost exactly 6 in ten of those having an abortion (59.9%) have already had at least one previous live birth. More specifically, about a quarter (26.6%) had previously given birth to one child, while another third (33.3%) had given birth to two children or more before having their abortions.

Clearly, we have a lot of work ahead of us.

If you like, join those who are following me on Twitter at Please send your comments to

Categories: Abortion