Chemical abortion leads rise in U.S. abortion numbers, report says - Pregnancy help can make an impact

Chemical abortion leads rise in U.S. abortion numbers, report says - Pregnancy help can make an impact (Heather Mount/Unsplash)

The number of abortions in the United States increased in 2021 from the previous year, especially chemical abortions, according to the latest fact sheet from the Charlotte Lozier Institute (CLI) on the annual Abortion Surveillance Report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

CLI is the research arm of national pro-life group Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America. 

CLI’s estimates using state abortion data were consistent with the trends reported by the CDC, CLI said in its report. Its analysis showed a 5% increase in total abortions and an 8% increase in chemical abortions, reflecting the CDC figures.

More specifically from the report:

"From 2020 to 2021, the total number of abortions rose 5% in the 48 reporting areas while chemical abortions rose by 9% among the 45 reporting areas that reported abortions by method type in both 2020 and 2021."

There were 625,918 total abortions reported to the CDC in 2021. According to CLI summary, there were 316,604 reported chemical abortions which comprised 56% of total abortions for which the method was reported (565,312) in 2021. 

Data for the more recent report, which was released by the CDC in November 2023, came from 46 states plus New York City and Washington, D.C. States that did not report abortion data are California, Maryland, New Hampshire, and, for the first time, New Jersey. CLI released its analysis later in December.

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Heartbeat International’s Vice President of ministry services Tracie Shellhouse told Pregnancy Help News that she was not surprised by the news of the increase in abortion numbers.

“I believe the 2020 pandemic could have contributed to the numbers rising,” she said. “Chemical abortion [became] easier to obtain. So, the rise in abortion is not surprising to me.”

Heartbeat is the largest network of pregnancy help organization's in the U.S. and the world.

Due to the lack of abortion reporting by California and the relaxation of laws governing how the abortion pill is dispensed, the number of abortions performed in the United States is inaccurate, Shellhouse added.

“Twelve percent of the U.S. population is in California,” she said. “They’re accessible from bordering states so the numbers that we see in the CDC report are representative of a percentage of abortions in this country.”

“Without those numbers (from non-reporting areas) we can’t have a perfectly clear picture (of abortion numbers),” Shellhouse said.

Nonetheless, safety for women seeking abortion was still a clear issue from the reported numbers. From the CLI report:

"In 2021, six women were reported to have died from legal induced abortion. This is an increase from 2020 when there were four reported deaths from legal induced abortions and the highest total since 2016."

Tweet This: In 2021 6 women were reported to have died from legal induced abortion, an increase from 4 deaths in 2020 and the highest total since 2016.

Additional data:

Other significant findings the CLI extrapolated from the CDC’s report include:

1. Chemical abortions rose by nine percent (9%) “among the 45 reporting areas that reported abortions by method type in both 2020 and 2021;”

2. States that saw the largest absolute increase in number of abortions performed were Illinois (+5,554), Florida (+4,949), and Georgia (+4,300);

3. The states with the largest percentage increases include South Dakota (+54%), West Virginia (+37%), and Utah (+32%);

4. Reporting areas which saw the largest absolute decrease in abortion numbers were Texas (-3,272), Washington state (-560), and Washington, D.C. (-546). Others that had the largest percentage decrease in abortion numbers were Delaware (-20%), Rhode Island (-17%), and Vermont (-16%);

5. Single women in their 20s make up the majority of those seeking abortions (57%);

6. Black women (42%) were abortion clients at a rate (28.6) four-and-a-half times (4.5) that of white women (6.4);

7. Women without previous abortions comprised 57 percent of abortion clients.

Pregnancy help combats abortion numbers

The increase in abortion numbers may be distressing but opportunities remain for those involved in pregnancy help to combat those statistics, Shellhouse said.

“During that 2020 to 2021 period, many people were isolated,” she said. 

“It is important to remember that the best alternative to abortion is another person,” Shellhouse said. “So, when we see people isolated and keeping their distance and very much keeping to themselves, it isn’t surprising that abortion numbers increased because people were not connected to others for support.”

Pregnancy help 'steps in' as that other person, she said, providing someone to talk to and resources like materials, life skills education, and medical services.

“Once people understand what’s available to them, what their options are, the resources available, and receive the encouragement they need, then we see they often choose life,” Shellhouse said. 

Shellhouse said a light remains: the number of abortions has gone down overall since the 1990s, and she is optimistic about the future.

“I anticipate a decrease in the number of abortions, for many reasons,” she said. “One of those being the pregnancy help network in the U.S. has grown exponentially in the last 20 years.” 

Heartbeat International has been very intentional about looking at underserved areas and helping to launch new centers, she said.

“We’ve set up 38 centers (in 2022) in the U.S. and provided care for those who didn’t have access in their area,” Shellhouse said. “So, we’ve been very intentional about growing the network.”

Shellhouse added, “We know that now there are more than 2,800 pregnancy help centers in the U.S. providing care.” 

Editor's note: Heartbeat International manages Pregnancy Help News.

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