Surveillance Data for Abortion

Years Available
1973 to present
Mode of Collection
Census: Most states have a legal requirement for providers to report all abortions.
Each year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) requests aggregate data from the central health agencies of 52 reporting areas (the 50 states, the District of Columbia, and New York City) to document the number and characteristics of women obtaining legal induced abortions in the United States. In most states, collection of abortion data is facilitated by the legal requirement for hospitals, facilities, and physicians to report all abortions to a central health agency. These central health agencies then voluntarily report the abortion data they have collected through their independent surveillance systems. While reporting to CDC is voluntary, most reporting areas provide their abortion numbers. To encourage more uniform collection of these details, CDC has collaborated with the National Association for Public Health Statistics and Information Systems to develop reporting standards and provide technical guidance for vital statistics personnel who collect and summarize abortion data within the United States. However, because the collection and reporting of abortion data are not federally mandated, many reporting areas have developed their own data collection forms and therefore do not collect or provide all the information in this system.
Selected Content
Age, race/ethnicity, marital status, previous live births, period of gestation, and previous induced abortions of women obtaining legal induced abortions.
Population Covered
All women (including teens) who have obtained a legal induced abortion in the United States.
A legal induced abortion is defined as an intervention performed within the limits of state law by a licensed clinician (e.g., a physician, nurse-midwife, nurse practitioner, or physician assistant) that is intended to terminate a suspected or known intrauterine pregnancy. Each year CDC requests aggregated data from the central health agencies of 52 reporting areas (the 50 states, the District of Columbia and New York City). Data are requested in aggregated data tables, summarizing all abortions obtained in a given jurisdiction by common variables and categories.
Response Rates and Sample Size
In 2016, abortions were reported from 48 jurisdictions. California, Maryland, New Hampshire, and the District of Columbia did not provide abortion reports to CDC.
Interpretation Issues
From 2007 to 2016, three states (California, Maryland, and New Hampshire) did not report abortion data to CDC, and the District of Columbia did not provide data in 2016. From 2007 to 2016, the annual number of abortions reported to CDC was about 30 percent less than the total estimated by the Guttmacher Institute, a nonprofit organization for reproductive health research. While most reporting areas that send abortion data to CDC have laws requiring medical providers to submit a report for every abortion they perform to a central health agency, as of 2016 reporting to a central health agency was not required in New Jersey or the District of Columbia, which affects the representativeness of annual reported estimates for these jurisdictions. In addition, some jurisdictions with reporting requirements may not obtain complete counts of the numbers of abortions occurring within their jurisdictions and others may not report data for all characteristics requested.
Jatlaoui TC, Eckhaus L, Mandel MG, et al. Abortion Surveillance — United States, 2016. MMWR Surveill Summ 2019;68(No. SS-11):1–41. DOI