The Alan Guttmacher Institute

State Facts About Abortion: California

National Background and Context

Abortion is a common experience: At current rates, about one in three American women will have had an abortion by the time she reaches age 45. Moreover, 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. No racial or ethnic group makes up a majority: 41% of women obtaining abortions are white non-Hispanic, 32% are black non-Hispanic, 20% are Hispanic and 7% are of other racial backgrounds.

Contraceptive use is a key predictor of women's recourse to abortion. The very small group of American women who are at risk of experiencing an unintended pregnancy but are not using contraceptives account for almost half of all abortions—46% in 2000. Many of these women did not think they would get pregnant or had concerns about contraceptive methods. The remainder of abortions occur among the much larger group of women who were using contraceptives in the month they became pregnant. Many of these women report difficulty using contraceptives consistently.

Abortion is one of the safest surgical procedures for women in the United States. Fewer than 0.5% of women obtaining abortions experience a complication, and the risk of death associated with abortion is about one-tenth that associated with childbirth.

In the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a woman, in consultation with her physician, has a constitutionally protected right to choose abortion in the early stages of pregnancy—that is, before viabilitye. In 1992, the Court upheld the basic right to abortion in Planned Parenthood v. Casey. However, it also expanded the ability of the states to enact all but the most extreme restrictions on women's access to abortion. The most common restrictions in effect are parental notification or consent requirements for minors, state-sponsored counseling and waiting periods, and limitations on public funding.

Pregnancies and Their Outcomes
• In 1996, 6 million of the 60 million American women of reproductive age (15-44) became pregnant. 64% of these pregnancies resulted in live births and 21% in abortions; the remaining 15% ended in miscarriage.

• In California, 897,590 of the 7,574,045 women of reproductive age became pregnant in 1996. 59% of these pregnancies resulted in live births and 26% in induced abortions.

• In 2000, 1.3 million American women obtained abortions, producing a rate of 21.3 abortions per 1,000 women of reproductive age. The rate declined 5% from 1996, when the abortion rate was 22.4 abortions per 1,000 women 15-44.

• In 2000, 236,060 women obtained abortions in California, producing a rate of 31.2 abortions per 1,000 women of reproductive age. Some of these women were from other states, and some California residents had abortions in other states, so this rate may not reflect the abortion rate of state residents. The rate declined 5% since 1996, when it was 32.9 abortions per 1,000 women 15-44. Abortions in California represent 18.0 of all abortions in the United States.

Where Do Women Obtain Abortions?
• In 2000, there were 1,819 abortion providers in the United States. This represents an 11% decrease from 1996, when there were 2,042 abortion providers. 33% of these providers were hospitals, 25% were abortion clinics (clinics where more than half of all patient visits were for abortion), 21% were clinics where fewer than half of all visits were for abortion, and 21% were private physicians' offices. 71% of all abortions were provided at abortion clinics, 22% at other clinics, 5% at hospitals and 2% at private physicians' offices.

• In 2000, there were 400 abortion providers in California. This represents a 19% decrease from 1996, when there were 492 abortion providers.

• In 2000, 87% of U.S. counties had no abortion provider. 1/3 of American women lived in these counties, which meant they would have to travel outside their county to obtain an abortion. Of women obtaining abortions in 2000, 25% traveled at least 50 miles, and 8% traveled more than 100 miles.

• In 2000, 41% of California counties had no abortion provider. 4% of California women lived in these counties. In the West census region, where California is located, 19% of women having abortions traveled at least 50 miles, and 6% traveled more than 100 miles.

• In California, 2 metropolitan areas lack an abortion provider: Merced; Visalia-Tulare-Porterville

Restrictions on Abortion
In California, the following restrictions on abortion were in effect as of December 2005:

U.S. and California abortion rates, 1991-2000

Legal abortion rate per 1,000 women aged 15-44

Definitions and Data Sources

This State Facts About Abortion fact sheet is made possible by support from The David and Lucile Packard Foundation and the General Service Foundation.


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