< U.S. abortion numbers, rates and ratio, from 1973

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Abortion statistics

Comparison of U.S. & world data. Effect of
emergency contraception (EC). Awareness of EC.

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Comparison of U.S. figures to worldwide data:

bullet Worldwide, about 210 million pregnancies occur each year. About 46 million women have abortions. 1 Presumably most of the rest, 164 million, give birth. If one overlooks the occurrence of stillbirths, this represents an abortion ratio of 280 abortions per 1000 live births -- a value fairly close to that seen in the U.S.
bullet The abortion rate in the U.S. is much higher than rates reported for Australia, Canada, the UK, and other Western European countries.
bullet The U.S. abortion rate is lower than rates reported by China, Cuba, most Eastern European countries, and several of the states in Russia. 2,3 A major cause appears to be legal restrictions on the distribution of condoms, or an inadequate supply of contraceptives in some of these countries.

bullet Abortion and birth rates for teenagers are higher in the U.S. than in most Western European countries and some Eastern European countries apparently because of cultural and educational differences. 4

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The effect of emergency contraception on the number of abortions:

In the year 2000, the Alan Guttmacher Institute evaluated the effect on emergency contraception (EC) on the total number of abortions in the U.S. It is generally acknowledged that this medication is 75% to 90% effective in preventing pregnancy if taken within 72 hours of unprotected intercourse.

bullet The Institute estimates that the total number of abortions was 1.4 million in 1994 and 1.3 million in 2000 - a reduction of 110,000 abortions or 11%.

bullet In their 1994 survey of women who had an abortion, they found 1,400 who had become pregnant in spite of using emergency contraception. Thus, they conservatively estimated that three times as many women (4,200 in total) had successfully used EC and had avoided becoming pregnant and having an abortion.

bullet In 1998, a more convenient form of EC, Preven, became available. In 1999, a second specially packaged EC came on the market. EC usage became much more common.

bullet In their year 2000 survey, the Institute found 17,000 who had become pregnant in spite of having using EC. They computed that 51,000 women had prevented pregnancy and a subsequent abortion in the year 2000 by using EC.

bullet The study concluded that the growth in emergency contraceptive usage was responsible for up to 43% of the decline in the number of abortions from 1994 to 2000.

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Awareness of emergency contraception:

A 2000-NOV poll indicated that one out of four women had never heard of emergency contraceptives or morning-after pills. Nearly two out of three women did not realize that the pills were available in the U.S. 5

A 1999 to 2001 survey asked 6,198 California women aged 18 to 44 two questions:

"To the best of your knowledge, if a woman has unprotected sex is there anything she can do in the 3 days after intercourse that will prevent pregnancy?

"What can she do?"

They found that 38% of California women were able to correctly identify emergency contraception. Unfortunately, among the the women who were most likely to need emergency contraception -- those who were not using any contraceptive method -- only 29% identified an EC method. 6

A second study in 2004 followed a major public educational program. 7 The percentage of California women who had heard that the percentage of women who correctly identified emergency contraceptive rose to 65%

As more women become aware of the availability of EC, the potential for major future reductions in the abortion number, abortion rate and abortion ratio is great. The report on the 2004 folloup study stated:

"Nearly one half of the 6.3 million pregnacies occurring annually in the United States are unintended, and one half of unintended pregnancies end in abortion. 8 Emergency contraception (EC) pills, also known as the 'morning after pill,' have the potential to avert an estimated 1.7 million uninteded pregnancies annually, thereby reducing the number of abortions in the U.S. by as much as half." 9

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Alan Guttmacher Institute data, released 1999-JAN.
  2. S.K. Henshaw, et al., "The incidence of abortion worldwide." International Family Planning Perspectives, 1999;25(suppl): S30--S37. (Cited in Ref. 1)
  3. "Therapeutic abortions, 1996 and 1997," The Daily Statistics Canada. Ottawa: Minister of Industry, (2000). (Cited in Ref. 6)
  4. S.W. McElroy & K.A. Moore, "Trends over time in teenage pregnancy and childbearing: the critical changes." In: R.A. Maynard RA, Ed., "Kids having kids: economic costs and social consequences of teen pregnancy," Urban Institute Press, 1997: 23--53. (Cited in Ref. 6)
  5. Julie Severens Lyons, "Law makes morning-after pill available without prescription: Pharmacies will be able to dispense emergency contraceptives," The Mercury News, 2001-OCT-16, was at: http://www0.mercurycenter.com/
  6. "Knowledge of emergency contraception among women aged 18 to 44 in California." American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Volume 191, Issue 1, July 2004, Pages 150-156.
  7. Diana G. Foster, et al,. "Trends in knowledge of emergency contraception among women in California, 1999-2004," Womens Health Issues, 17 (2007). Pages 22-28, at: http://www.go2ec.org/
  8. S. Henshar, "Unintended pregnancy in the United States," Family Planning Perspectives, 30, Pages 24-29.
  9. R. Jones, et al., "Contraceptive use among U.S. women having abortions, 2000-2001," Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health, 34, Pages 294-303.

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Site navigation: Home page > "Hot" religious topics > Abortion > Facts > here

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Copyright © 2003 to 2010 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2003-JAN-4
Latest update: 2010-JUN-11
Author: B.A. Robinson

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