Abortion in the U.S. - Statistics & Facts

Abortion has long been a controversial subject in U.S. society. In 1973, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that women had a right to have an abortion in the landmark Roe v. Wade case. However, individual States are free to enact laws that restrict the practice and availability of abortion. In this way, the tug-of-war between so-called “pro-choice” and “pro-life” advocates continues and the availability of abortion depends greatly on which state or region the women lives.

Despite such debate and difficulties, thousands of women have legal abortions in the United States every year. In 2015, there were approximately 638,000 legal abortions reported in the U.S., a decrease from previous years. State restrictions on abortion may play a part in the decreasing number, but the use of contraceptives has also played a significant role in preventing abortion. As of 2015, the abortion rate in the U.S. was highest among women aged 20 to 24 years with around 20 legal abortions reported per 1,000 women in this age group.

Unintended pregnancies among adolescent women can often lead to abortion, given the age of the women. As expected, the number of abortions among teens increases with age, and in 2015 there were 20,054 reported abortions among women aged 19 years, compared to 4,659 among those aged 16 years. Sexual education and the use of contraceptives can be healthy and effective methods of avoiding pregnancy. In 2014, the state of California was estimated to have averted 16,900 abortions among teenage girls through the use of publicly funded contraceptive services.

Public opinion in the U.S. remains divided on the issue of abortion. A survey from May 2018 found 48 percent of Americans considered themselves pro-choice and 48 percent considered themselves pro-life. Some feel so strongly about the issue that it has led to violence and the threat of violence against those who provide, perform or have abortions. This is seen in the fact that from 1970 to 2016 there were 256 terrorist attacks on abortion related institutions or clinics, making abortion related terrorist attacks the fourth most common type of terror attack over this period.

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