U.S. Abortion Total Hits Lowest Mark Since Year After Roe v. Wade

The number of abortions nationwide has dropped to their lowest levels since the year following the Supreme Court's landmark decision Roe v. Wade, according to the latest annual Abortion Surveillance report by the Center for Disease Control.

In the report on legally induced abortions carried out in the United States in 2004, the health agency counted 839,226 abortions – a 1.1 percent decrease from the 848,136 abortions reported in 2003.

The documented number is the lowest since 1974, the year following the Supreme Court ruling that gave women the right to have an abortion. In that year, the CDC reported the total number of abortions to be 763,476.

There were 238 abortions per 1,000 live births in 2004, a decrease from 241 the year before. The abortion ratio peaked at 364 per 1,000 in 1984, according to the report, and since then has demonstrated a generally steady decline.

The number of abortions per 1,000 women, meanwhile, has remained unchanged, having been around 16 since 2000. The statistic was based on data collected from women aged 15-44 years in age.

The CDC indicates that the number of abortions has been steadily declining from 1996-2000. In 2002, the number of abortions slightly increased by 0.1 percent, but it declined by 0.7 percent in 2003 before further declining by 1.1 percent in 2004.

In 2004, the highest number of reported legal induced abortions occurred in Florida (91,710), New York (91,673), and Texas (74,801), said the report. The fewest total of abortions occurred in Wyoming (12), South Dakota (814), and Idaho (963).

While the annual abortion report points out certain trends in abortion levels, the CDC noted that the total numbers of actual abortions were probably higher than those voluntarily reported by central health agencies.

Most figures – including the overall number, ratio, and rate of abortions – are conservative estimates, said the CDC in the report.

One of the reasons is the fact that three states – California, New Hampshire, and West Virginia – did not report data for 2003-2004. Although the health agency has estimated data for non-reporting states in the past, it has not since 1998.

Before 1998, over 23 percent of abortions were estimated to have been performed in California. The absence of data from California in the 2004 Abortion Surveillance "largely explains the majority of the 28% decrease from the annual number of abortions reported for 1997 and part of the decrease in the total ratio and rate," stated the report.

CDC estimates that about 12-20 percent of the abortions performed nationwide are not reflected in their annual figures.

In the latest report, the abortion rate for the United States was higher than rates reported for Canada and Western European countries and lower than rates reported for China, Cuba, the majority of Eastern European countries, and certain Newly Independent States of the former Soviet Union.

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