The Latest Abortion Statistics and Facts

The Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade meaning many Americans will lose their right to an abortion. Learn about U.S. abortion statistics and why they matter. Plus, read about five real-life abortion stories from parents.

In This Article
View All
In This Article

People choose abortions for many different reasons, and it's a common medical procedure across the globe. In fact, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), about 73 million induced abortions take place each year, accounting for 29 percent of all pregnancies. The procedure is generally safe when carried out using an appropriate method—but many Americans are now facing the possibility that abortions will no longer be accessible to them as the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in a 6-3 decision on June 24, 2022.

The decision came more than a month after a draft opinion by Justice Samuel Alito was leaked and published in POLITICO on May 2, 2022. It showed that the Supreme Court majority voted to overturn Roe v. Wade, which would eliminate the constitutional protection of abortion. The decision to allow, restrict, or ban abortions now falls to each state—and about half of the states are likely to eliminate access now that the landmark 1973 case is overturned.

This news is understandably spurring panic across the country. Keep reading to learn more about abortion statistics in our country, with insights into the reasons why people choose to have them.

Abortion Statistics in America

About one-fourth of Americans will have an abortion before age 45, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a research organization focused on reproductive health. Breaking down these stats further, about 4.6 percent will have had an abortion by age 20, and 19 percent before age 30.

Recent research shows that the abortion rate has been decreasing over the years. (To compare, the Guttmacher Institute reported 29.3 abortions per 1,000 women in the peak year 1980, compared with 13.5 abortions per 1,000 women in 2017). One potential reason is better education about sex and reproductive health; another may be an increase in abortion bans across the country.

Here are some more abortion statistics from the Guttmacher Institute regarding age, race, and other demographics.

Types of abortions

In 2017, about 39 percent of abortions were conducted with pills or medications. These can generally be taken up to 10 weeks after the first day of your last period, says Planned Parenthood. The other 61 percent were done through an in-clinic surgical procedure, such as vacuum aspiration or dilation and excavation (D&E).

"As in previous years, clinics provided the overwhelming majority of U.S. abortions (95 percent), while private physicians' offices and hospitals accounted for 5 percent," says the Guttmacher Institute.

Abortion statistics by age

Based on data compiled in 2014 by the Guttmacher Institute, a majority of people who got abortions were in their 20s (age 20-24 in 34 percent of abortions, and age 25-29 in 27 percent of abortions). People under 20 years old accounted for 12 percent of abortions; less than 4 percent were younger than 18 years old.

Doctor Talking to Patient Sitting on Table

Reasons for abortion

While "reasons for abortion" statistics are hard to come by, people choose to terminate their pregnancies for a variety of reasons. Here are some possible scenarios:

  • Having a baby would interfere with life plans (like education or work)
  • They don't feel ready to take on the responsibility of parenting
  • They don't have a support system in place to raise a child
  • Their birth control failed
  • They simply don't want a kid
  • They don't have the financial means to raise a child
  • They were sexually assaulted
  • The pregnancy jeopardizes the parent's health
  • The fetus won't survive or will suffer life-threatening complications

Of course, every situation is unique. Only the pregnant person (and their doctor) can gauge whether abortion is the right choice.

Parents who have abortions

Did you know that a majority of people who have abortions are already parents? Of those who received an abortion, 60 percent had "one or more" previous children—according to 2019 data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Their reasons for terminating a pregnancy are complex, from the state of their relationship to personal finances to reluctance to add another child to their family. For them, abortion is the choice that makes the best, or only, sense.

The Majority of Women Who Have Abortions Are Moms
Emma Darvick

Real-Life Abortion Stories

To understand what goes into a person's decision to terminate a pregnancy, Parents interviewed people from across the country who had an abortion. Some of the people we spoke with already had children when they had an abortion. Others had an abortion at a younger age, knowing that someday when they were more settled in their lives, they would want children. Whatever their circumstances, one thing is certain: these people represent millions of others like them.

"I knew I wanted to have children, just not at 22."

It was the summer of 2012. The twins, Naomi and Saul, had just been weaned, and Hannah* and Patrick were exhausted from juggling demanding jobs and child care for four kids. When Hannah discovered she was pregnant again, abortion was the obvious choice. "I think for both of us, it was an instant thing," says Hannah, an attorney. "If you have kids and are faced with an unexpected pregnancy, you're thinking about the kids you have and what you wouldn't be able to give them in terms of your time, energy, and attention."

Hannah certainly didn't think that she could become pregnant again. Even though her first child, Isaac, was conceived easily, she struggled with infertility following his birth. When Isaac was a toddler, she miscarried—an upsetting loss. "I was desperate to have a baby," Hannah says. "I was devastated that I couldn't." Hannah gave up going to synagogue at the time because the sight of pregnant women or infants left her in tears. But over the course of six years of infertility treatments, Hannah had Raphael, followed by the twins.

As much as Hannah longed for children, there had been a time in her life when she didn't. When she and Patrick were engaged, she had her first abortion. "I just felt completely unprepared," she says. "I knew I wanted to have children, just not at 22." Thinking back, Hannah says she's grateful that she was able to decide when to have children, and when to stop. "I know people might not understand how I can terminate a pregnancy and then be upset if I lose one," she says. "I'm a lucky person—I have a great family. I'm blessed with what I have. People need to know more about others' experiences so we all can better understand one another and not sit back and simply judge."

- Hannah, of Minneapolis.

"We weren't talking about divorce at that point, but it had crossed my mind."

When Susan Chorley landed her first ministerial position out of seminary at a large Baptist church outside Boston, she had a 9-month-old. It was an all-consuming job, running the youth ministry and other duties that often kept her at work through the evening. Her husband, Frank, stayed home with their son, Franz, but Frank was getting ready to return to school. The stress was taking its toll on their marriage.

Then, a year into the job, Susan became pregnant. "We weren't talking about divorce at that point, but it had crossed my mind," says Susan. "And I didn't want to bring another life into a tenuous situation."

The following year, Susan and Frank separated. The abortion made her sad, but with the marriage falling apart, she felt that their lives were too much in flux for another child. "I had envisioned myself as a mom of two children," she says. "So there's a little bit of sadness about that, but I think it was the best decision for our family at the time." Today, she works at a church-based nonprofit organization, running a women's shelter, domestic-violence prevention programs, and other services. Frank lives part of the week with her and part of the week with his father, now a designer and an art teacher.

- Rev. Susan Chorley, of Boston.

"I had friends who were struggling with fertility. There was a little bit of guilt. I could have this baby and be fine."

"I'm the oldest of five, and the 'baby' of my family is 19 years younger than I am. So in some ways, I already got to be a parent growing up," says Virginia Duplessis, who with her husband had decided they would keep their own family small. "For what I wanted to do, see, and accomplish in life, I simply felt that I could achieve those things with just one child of our own."

When her daughter was in preschool, Virginia's IUD failed. At the time, she was working as a doula, helping people prepare for birth and coaching them through labor. After taking the pregnancy test, she met her husband for lunch to break the news. "For a moment, I was worried that my husband would want to keep the baby," she says now. "But he was worried that I would want to keep the baby." They were relieved when they both agreed to an abortion.

However, Virginia surprised herself when she cried so much at the Planned Parenthood clinic that the staff thought that perhaps she was there unwillingly. "It was the right decision, but so hard," she says. "For me, it was my baby. As much as people feel uncomfortable using that language, that's what really resonated for me." Over the years, she has hesitated to talk about the experience. "I had friends who were struggling with fertility," she says. "There was a little bit of guilt. I could have this baby and be fine." She got over feeling sad years ago, however, and has never regretted her decision.

Today, Virginia works in a sexual assault prevention program on a college campus, and her daughter is getting ready to begin high school. The Bay Area is expensive, even with two professional incomes, but with one child, Virginia and her husband lead the life she always envisioned, with enough money for a private school, overseas vacations, and saving for college. "To me, it's so interesting that the narrative around terminating a pregnancy is that it's this incredibly traumatic, life-changing experience," she says. "I do think about it, but I can't even remember when it was."

- Virginia Duplessis, of El Cerrito, California.

"We didn't want to start over again."

By the time she was 31, Lena* and her boyfriend owned a house in the suburbs where she lived with her 13-year-old son from a previous relationship and her boyfriend's son, who was just a year older. Lena hadn't gone to college but had found a fruitful career in the mortgage-lending business; she worked late nights while her boyfriend worked days at a body shop. Together, they made enough to save for the future, with money left for dinners out and relaxing weekends at home. The boys, she says, were close, spending hours together as teenagers, in their room playing video games or out in the neighborhood riding skateboards or hanging out with friends.

Then Lena became pregnant. At first, she thought she had the flu. But when her doctor tested her and confirmed a pregnancy, she knew right away she didn't want to bring a baby into their lives. "We didn't want to start over again," she says. "I just felt like it would have been selfish, especially since we struggled when the boys were young. We were finally at a point where we weren't struggling." And their teenagers needed them, maybe not in the moment-to-moment way younger children do, but they required guidance and supervision. With her boyfriend's support, Lena made an appointment for an abortion. "We just knew," she says. "We didn't want another child."

Within weeks of the abortion, Lena was laid off. The couple began arguing over money. "Our financial strain was just unbearable, and it caused a lot of fighting," Lena says. Eventually, she and her boyfriend split up. Today, Lena's son is away at community college, studying marketing and dreaming of becoming a rap star, and she lives with two dogs in a cottage in the city, not far from the beach.

"It's unfortunate that my boyfriend's and my relationship didn't work out," Lena says. "But at least we didn't have a child in the middle of it."

- Lena, of San Diego.

"I can bring a lot more wisdom to parenting now."

Ruby Sinreich was 17, a rising high-school senior when she found out that she was pregnant. At first, she considered having the baby and going off to college, an infant in tow. She was living in Miami with her father that year and told him she didn't want an abortion. "I felt I had to own up to my responsibility," she says. Then, her father's girlfriend stepped in, asking her to reconsider. "She convinced me I could be a better mom if I waited," says Ruby.

Once settled into college life, at UNC-Chapel Hill, Ruby came to see how impossible it would have been for her to raise a baby in a dorm room. At 18, she was busy with her studies and with student activism. After graduation, she worked for a series of nonprofit organizations—including Planned Parenthood—developing websites and later social-media strategy. She doesn't remember ever talking about the abortion or questioning her decision. When she was in her mid-30s, still single and wanting a child, "I wondered if I had lost my one chance," she says.

At 35, Ruby married a fellow web developer, in large part because they knew they wanted a child. Her son, Izzy, was born three years later. By then, married and settled in a career, she felt ready to be a mother. "I had my son 20 years after I had the abortion," she says. "I can bring a lot more wisdom to parenting now."

Today, Ruby and Izzy's father are separated, sharing custody. Izzy has just finished first grade. Last September, Ruby tweeted about her abortion at #ShoutYourAbortion. Hundreds of people responded, some calling her selfish and immoral. However, she also heard privately from friends, grateful to her for bringing abortion out of the shadows. "There were a lot of people who thanked me because they can't talk about their abortion," she says. "So I felt I was speaking for them."

- Ruby Sinreich, of Durham, North Carolina.

*Last names have been withheld for privacy.

Additional reporting by Nicole Harris
Was this page helpful?
Related Articles