18 surveys conducted between 1973 and 2017
Periodic; typically every 3 years
Mode of Collection
Census: mail questionnaire.
The Guttmacher Institute's periodic surveys of abortion providers produce the most complete available data on the number and geographic distribution of abortions and abortion providers, the types of facilities offering services, and other aspects of abortion availability.
Type of provider, number of abortions performed (including medication abortion), minimum and maximum gestations for procedures, and the proportion of provider services accounted for by abortions.
All facilities known (or suspected) to provide abortions in the United States
The most recent survey collected abortion data for 2017 (and 2016). A current list of abortion providers was created by updating lists from previous surveys and identifying new providers from a variety of sources. Mailed questionnaires were sent to all providers; responses could be made by mail, phone, or email. Abortion data from state health departments were also obtained to supplement information obtained from providers. Intensive telephone follow-up of non-respondents was carried out. Estimates were made for non-respondents using a variety of techniques.
Response Rates and Sample Size
Of the 2,277 facilities included in the 2017 survey 1,340 responded; health department data were used to estimate responses for 423 facilities; and estimates were made for the 446 nonresponding facilities. The remaining 68 facilities had stopped providing abortion services prior to the study period or had been added in error. The majority of the nonresponding facilities (291 of 390) were hospitals and physicians' offices, which typically have small caseloads; 75 of these were estimated to have provided no abortions during the survey period. It was determined that 1,587 facilities provided abortions in 2017.
Guttmacher abortion data are the most accurate available because of the extensive efforts that go into collecting this information. Still the figures are not without limitations. Health care facilities that provide a small number of abortions, mainly private physicians' offices and hospitals, may not be known to the Guttmacher Institute. A survey of a random sample of obstetrician-gynecologists suggests that some 2,000 physicians who provide abortions in their private practice were not captured in this study. However, most of these facilities only perform a small number of abortions per year. Hence the Guttmacher estimate of abortions may be up to 5 percent lower than it would have been if these providers had been included. Additionally, there is some evidence that women are able to obtain abortions outside of the health care system (e.g., self-managed abortions) and these are also not included in the Guttmacher data.
- Jones RK and Jerman J. Abortion incidence and service availability in the United States, 2014. Perspective on Sexual and Reproductive Health, 2017, 49(1): 17-27.
- Jones RK, Witwer E and Jerman J, Abortion Incidence and Service Availability the United States, 2017, New York: Guttmacher Institute, 2019