By Peter J. Smith

WASHINGTON, D.C., November 30, 2009 ( – The US Center for Disease Control (CDC) has released its latest available figures on abortion submitted to the federal agency, which shows an overall decrease in the number of abortions for the ten years between 1997 and 2006, but with a small uptick in abortion rates and ratios between 2005 and 2006, which CDC analysts believe may be attributable to an accompanying rise in fertility rates.

While the CDC report provides an analysis of trends in abortion patterns, it qualifies that its data reflects approximately 65 to 69 percent of the actual total numbers of abortions in the US: three states – California, Louisiana, and New Hampshire – do not submit any abortion data to the federal health agency, and not all reporting areas use the CDC forms for data collection. CDC data on the rate of abortions consistently remains 11 percent lower than those figures recorded by the Alan Guttmacher Institute, the research arm of Planned Parenthood, which solicits data directly from abortion providers.

Forty-nine reporting areas show that in 2006, a total of 846,181 abortions were documented. Between 1997 and 2006, the total number of abortions declined 5.7 percent, the rate of abortions (abortions per 1000 women aged 15-44) declined 8.8 percent, and the ratio of abortions (abortions per thousand live births) also fell 14.8 percent.

The CDC showed that the greatest rate of decline occurred in the years between 1996 and 2000, when total abortions fell on average by 20,605 per year. For the years between 2001 and 2006, the number of abortions fell by a much smaller margin, decreasing an average 2,163 abortions per year.

But 2006, the last year of available collected data, showed a small uptick in abortion that diverges from this downward trend. The total number of abortions in 2006 increased from 2005 levels by 3.1 percent: 820,151 abortions up to 846,181 abortions; the abortion rate rose by 3.2 percent from 15.6 to 16.1 (abortions per 1000 women aged 15-44), while the ratio of women aborting their unborn children remained the same in both years (236 abortions per 1000 live-births).

However, the CDC surmised that the abortion rate remained stable, and a rise in overall fertility for 2006 may serve as a likely explanation for the increase. For that year, the CDC found that the number of live births and the fertility rate (live births per 1000 women aged 15-44) increased by three percent, which the CDC said was the “largest single-year increase in more than 15 years.”

The federal agency said that additional surveillance data would be necessary over the next few years to establish conclusively whether abortions are increasing without an accompanying increase in fertility.

Women in their twenties accounted for the majority of all abortions, at 56.8 percent. Abortion rates were highest in the 20-24 age demographic, with 29.9 abortions per 1000 women in that range, and 22.2 abortions per 1000 women in the 25-29 age group.

Among adolescents, CDC analysts noted that while abortion rates among adolescents (15-19 years) increased between 2005-2006, the number of live-births increased by an even greater proportion, which they stated “might be attributable to an increasing tendency for adolescents to continue their pregnancies.” This is suggested by data that shows the ratio of abortion continued to decline in that period, despite the increased abortion rate.

Marital status also had an impact on those who were likely to seek abortions. Approximately 83.5 percent of women aborting their children were unmarried in the 43 areas that reported marital status.

In terms of race and ethnicity, whites (including Hispanic whites) accounted for 55.8 percent of the total number of abortions, with a rate of 10.8 abortions per 1000 women and 162 abortions per 1000 live births.

Breaking those values down further: data showed that Hispanic women account for 20.1 percent of the total number of abortions, a proportion that has increased over the 10 years between 1997-2006. In 1997, Hispanic women accounted for 17 percent of abortions.  The CDC surmised this increase could be attributable to the fact that Hispanics now constitute a greater proportion of the resident US population.

Nevertheless, the overall rate of Hispanic women seeking abortion is down 19.1 percent from 1997: 28.7 to 23.2 abortions per 1000 women in that group, along with the abortion ratio: 292 to 223 abortions per 1000 live-births.

However, black women bear a staggeringly high proportion of abortions, accounting for 36.4 percent of the total number of abortions. Black abortion rates (33.9 abortions per 1000 women) and ratios (459 abortions for 1000 live-births) were higher than all the other reported racial groups. Nevertheless, only among black women did the abortion rate decline in 2006, in opposition to the general uptick in abortion that occurred that year.

See full CDC abstract with accompanying data, including tables and figures here.