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U.S. Abortion Numbers, Rate, and Ratio Increased in 2021: CDC’s Abortion Surveillance

November 28, 2023

Newly released government figures show that, in the year before the Dobbs decision, the number of abortions had climbed by thousands — including more than 1,200 abortions on girls under the age of 15 — and an expert tells The Washington Stand, “This number is undoubtedly an underreporting.”

The abortion industry committed 625,978 abortions nationwide in 2021 — an increase of 5,651 abortions over 2020, according to the annual abortion surveillance for 2021 from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The Biden administration released the latest abortion figures the day after Thanksgiving.

The CDC reports 0.2% of all reported abortions were carried out on girls younger than 15 — amounting to 1,251 abortions committed on young adolescents or preteens.

“This report shows us how entrenched the abortion industry is in this country,” said Carol Tobias, president of National Right to Life.

The ratio of American women between the ages of 15 and 44 who had an abortion also increased 5%, and the rate of unborn babies being aborted, as opposed to born alive, increased 4%. Yet the actual figure is likely worse, experts say.

“This number is undoubtedly an underreporting,” Mary Szoch, director of the Center for Human Dignity at Family Research Council, told TWS. “It is devastating, as each of these women and each of these babies have incalculable dignity and worth. Let us pray for the day when no unborn child and no mother is targeted by the abortion industry.”

The CDC’s incomplete figures — which contain data from only 48 reporting areas: 46 states, plus New York City and the District of Columbia — represent an increase over last year’s reported 620,327 abortions. But last year’s report contained reports from 49 reporting areas. New Jersey — which reported 22,972 abortions in the 2020 abortion surveillance released last year — opted out of reporting any numbers for this year’s report. The number of unborn babies killed by abortion post-COVID likely spiked higher than government figures capture.

“This means that the U.S. Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision giving elected officials the power to protect unborn children from abortion came at the time when unborn children’s lives were most at risk,” Szoch told TWS.

The CDC reports that 87% of all abortions were carried out on unmarried women: The abortion ratio for unmarried women is 10 times that of married women (41 lives births per 1,000 for married women, compared to 404 per 1,000 for unmarried women). The more children a woman had, the less likely she became to have an abortion. The plurality of women who obtained an abortion had never had a child. Two out of three women (64%) who had an abortion had zero or one child. This may imply the more familiar a woman is with motherhood, the less likely she is to opt for abortion.

A persistent racial inequality dogged this year’s abortion statistics, as well. “[I]n 2021 compared with White women, abortion rates and ratios were 4.5 and 4.3 times higher among Black women and 1.9 and 1.6 times higher among Hispanic women, respectively,” states the report. In 2021, blacks accounted for 12.1% of the U.S. population, but black women accounted for 41.5% of all abortions. Non-Hispanic white people make up 58.9% of U.S. residents but 30.2% of abortions. The representation of Hispanics and those of other ethnic identities were nearly balanced with the percentage of abortions carried out on them.

In addition to hundreds of thousands of unborn children, the report notes that six women died during abortion. “CDC identified six abortion-related deaths for 2020, the most recent year for which data were reviewed for abortion-related deaths,” the abortion surveillance notes. “Investigation of these cases indicated all deaths were related to legal abortion.”

The new report contains a touch of transgender ideology. “Not all persons who obtain abortions identify as women,” the 2021 abortion surveillance states before adding that the CDC maintained the term “women” in this report “to be consistent.”

The report does not note any other diseases spread during the course of abortion, a known issue at abortion facilities in the past. “During 2021, federal agencies, state, and local governments were just coming out of the pandemic and still concerned about COVID, but these numbers show us that the abortion industry simply plowed ahead promoting their deadly product, destroying more lives of unborn babies every day,” said Tobias. “Clearly abortion groups care more about the bottom line than the lives and health of unborn babies or their mothers.”

Pro-life advocates say the abortion industry’s indifference to women’s suffering is reflected in its use of the abortion pill, forcing mothers to manage their abortions alone.

A majority (53%) of all abortions in 2021 were chemical abortions involving the abortion pills mifepristone and misoprostol. That represents a 3% increase over last year and a 137% increase since 2012. “While every abortion is tragic because it ends the life of an unborn child, abortions using the abortion drug, mifepristone, are especially horrific because of the great risk they pose to the mother’s health, and sometimes her life, as well,” Szoch told TWS.

“Promoters of these pills claim high safety and satisfaction rates, but neglect to mention how painful and bloody these abortions are, and how often women taking these pills end up in emergency rooms hemorrhaging, dealing with infections, and undiagnosed ectopic pregnancy. Unscreened women getting these pills in the mail may find help hard to find when things begin to go wrong. More women, more babies will surely die,” said Randall K. O’Bannon, director of education and research at the National Right to Life Committee. “Until women are told the truth about these painful and dangerous abortifacients, those numbers will probably continue to grow, particularly with the FDA’s recent relaxation of safety standards of the drug and the media’s and industry’s incessant sales campaign.”

The annual report shows a wide fluctuation in the number of abortions per state, with lower rates in states with more protective pro-life laws. Missouri claimed the lowest abortion rate in the nation at 0.1 per 1,000 females aged 15-44; Washington, D.C., had the nation’s highest abortion rate at 21.8 per 1,000 females that age. The nation’s capital also had the highest abortion ratio with 447 abortions compared to every 1,000 live births; 71% of all D.C. abortions involved the residents of other states.

The CDC’s annual abortion surveillance reports an incomplete number of abortions, as it does not include the nation’s most populous state, California, or the states of Maryland, New Hampshire, and New Jersey. But the CDC notes that abortionists sometime flout laws requiring them to tell states the number of abortions they commit. Abortion “reporting is not complete in all areas, including in certain areas with reporting requirements,” the Biden administration’s CDC reports.

Despite the increased number of abortions in 2021, the number of U.S. abortions has for the most part trended downward for three decades. “The pro-life movement is encouraged that abortion numbers have been greatly reduced from a peak of 1.6 million in 1990 and still remain below one million” in the annual surveillance, said Tobias of National Right to Life. But “the pro-life movement recognizes that there is still much work to be done to protect innocent unborn babies and their mothers.”

“The time to protect the unborn is now!” said Szoch.

Fast Facts:

  • A total of 625,978 abortions were reported in 2021 by 46 states, New York City, and Washington, D.C.;
  • The annual CDC abortion surveillance reported 5,651 more abortions in 2021 than in 2020;
  • More than 1,200 abortions were carried out on young girls under the age of 15;
  • Black women, who account for 12.1% of the U.S. population, made up 41.5% of abortions in 2021;
  • Six mothers died due to “safe and legal” abortion in 2020;
  • The abortion industry committed 53% of all abortions with the abortion pill combo of mifepristone and misoprostol, which carry heavier side effects than surgical abortion;
  • The number of abortions and the abortion rate increased 5% in 2021, while the abortion ratio increased 4%;
  • More than eight in 10 abortions took place at or before nine weeks gestation (LMP); and
  • The figure is incomplete, because it does not include California, Maryland, New Hampshire, or New Jersey.

Ben Johnson is senior reporter and editor at The Washington Stand.