Advancing Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights

An Overview Of Abortion In The United States

  • Nearly half of all pregnancies to American women are unintended; four in 10 of these end in abortion.

  • About half of American women have experienced an unintended pregnancy, and at current rates more than one-third (35%) will have had an abortion by age 45.

  • Overall unintended pregnancy rates have stagnated over the past decade, yet unintended pregnancy increased by 29% among poor women while decreasing 20% among higher-income women.

  • In 2005, 1.21 million abortions were performed, down from 1.31 million abortions in 2000.

  • Nine in 10 abortions occur in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.

  • A broad cross section of U.S. women have abortions:
    • 56% of women having abortions are in their 20s;
    • 61% have one or more children;
    • 67% have never married;
    • 57% are economically disadvantaged;
    • 88% live in a metropolitan area; and
    • 78% report a religious affiliation.


New Report Documents 30-Year U.S. Trends in Abortion

No Conspiracy Theories Needed: Higher Abortion Rates Among Women of Color Reflect Higher Rates of Unintended Pregnancy

U.S. Abortion Rate Continues Long-Term Decline, Falling to Lowest Level Since 1974; More Effort Still Needed to Reduce Unintended Pregnancy

Poorest U.S. Women Increasingly Likely to Face Unintended Pregnancies


“Many Americans will welcome the news that there are fewer abortions, particularly among teens, and that a larger proportion of abortions are now happening very early in pregnancy," saysSharon L. Camp, president and CEO of the Guttmacher Institute. "But at the same time, abortions are becoming more concentrated among women of color and low-income women. This presents a clear challenge to policymakers to redouble their efforts to improve access to subsidized contraceptive services for these women, thereby helping them to prevent the unintended pregnancies behind these abortions from occurring in the first place.”

"For a long time, nearly 90% of abortions in the U.S. have taken place in the first trimester, but in recent years, women having an abortion have been able to do so earlier and earlier in the first trimester. Currently, more than six in 10 abortions occur within the first eight weeks of pregnancy, and almost three in 10 take place at six weeks or earlier,” says Rachel Jones, lead senior research associate at the Guttmacher Institute. “Medication abortion, which provides women with an additional option early in pregnancy, clearly reinforces this trend.”

"The United States has one of the highest abortion rates in the developed world, with women from every socioeconomic, racial, ethnic, religious and age-group obtaining abortions," says Lawrence Finer, associate director for domestic research at the Guttmacher Institute. "We study abortion so we can learn more about how well current efforts to improve contraceptive use and reduce unintended pregnancy are working, the circumstances under which women have difficulty accessing abortion and, ultimately, how to reduce the need for abortion."

“There really is no need to resort to far-flung conspiracy theories. Behind virtually every abortion is an unintended pregnancy. And because women of color are much more likely to experience unintended pregnancies than any other group, they are also more likely to seek and obtain abortions than any other group,” says Susan A. Cohen, director of government affairs at the Guttmacher Institute. “Fundamentally, the question policymakers should be asking is not why women of color have high abortion rates, but rather what can be done to help them have fewer unintended pregnancies and achieve better health outcomes more generally.”

To set up an interview, contact Rebecca Wind at 212-248-1953 or