A report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) last month showed a marked decline in the United States abortion rate between 2006 and 2015, with abortions hitting “historic lows” since Roe v. Wade. But in her latest piece for National Review, pro-life journalist Katie Yoder explains why the CDC’s numbers are likely off by hundreds of thousands.
The Nov. 23 CDC report has been widely circulated, with media outlets across the political spectrum cheering the progress that’s taken place since the landmark Supreme Court ruling that legalized abortion nationwide. According to CDC data from 2015, the most recent year for which national statistics are available, abortions dropped 26 percent — from 15.9 per 1,000 women ages 15-44 in 2006, to 11.8 in 2015.
The CDC estimates 638,169 abortions took place in 2015, but as Yoder notes, the fine print indicates the actual number is likely much higher. Three states — California, Maryland and New Hampshire — are excluded from the report, as each declined to provide the CDC with abortion statistics for every year the survey took place.
Thanks to data collected by the Guttmacher Institute, an organization formerly associated with Planned Parenthood, Yoder was able to fill in some of what the CDC report lacks.
According to its 2014 survey that lists abortion statistics for each state, “some 157,350 abortions were provided” in California alone. Maryland performed “some 28,140 abortions,” and New Hampshire performed “some 2,540 abortions.” That’s 188,030 abortions in a single year.
Yoder notes that while the report of a declining abortion rate is likely still accurate, when every life counts, accuracy in numbers is crucial.
The new CDC reported claims the “total number of reported abortions decreased 2%” between 2014 and 2015. If the CDC’s 2 percent figure is applied to the 2014 GI statistics, “an estimated 184,269 abortions may not have been reported in 2015,” Yoder writes.“That number represents nearly 29% of the nation’s abortions reported by the CDC in that year.”
She goes on to explain, however, that this percentage would likely “decrease when applied to the Guttmacher Institute’s abortion data.”
The Guttmacher Institute reported a total of 926,200 abortions for 2014 after surveying “all U.S. facilities known or expected to have provided abortion services in 2013 or 2014,” while the CDC’s 2014 figure was much lower: 652,639. Further, for the same time period, the Guttmacher Institute’s numbers show a 3 percent decline in abortion, while the CDC reports a 2 percent decline.
“If the same decline repeated for the Guttmacher Institute in 2015, as it did for the CDC, then an estimated 182,389 abortions from California, Maryland, and New Hampshire may not have been reported in 2015,” Yoder concludes.
So why does all this matter if in the end, the abortion rate has still experienced some sort of decrease? Yoder explains that while we will likely never know the exact figures, as both the CDC and the Guttmacher Institute “admit data limitations and unfortunately leave Americans in the dark” to some extent, it’s important to have the most accurate picture of abortion in America.
Those who agree with Yoder that “one abortion is too many” deserve a realistic estimate of how far we have to go. But like every precious life, the steady decrease in abortion, though small, is worth celebrating.