Abortion Rates and Ratios Continue Dropping in the United States

Abortion rates and ratios continue to decline in the United States. This is so despite the increased liberties the United States Supreme Court gave to doctors and women [in this order] in its 1973 ruling Roe v. Wade. Also, more than 90 percent of abortions are done well within the first trimester. About 1% of abortions are done in the third trimester and only for the very most serious reasons. Foot-long dolls and pictures of babies are not representative of aborted embryos or early fetuses but of the children they probably would have become.

We Seventh-day Adventists need not rush in revising our abortion guidelines because things are already moving in a positive direction. We can take all the time we need to do this well. Haste makes waste here, too.

An excellent place to find these numbers is The State of Abortion in the United States, 2019. A sixty-page booklet which the National Right to Life Committee published in January 30 of this year, it combines information from the Guttmacher Institute, which gathers information from abortion providers, the United States Center for Disease Control and Prevention, and its own interpretations. The NRLC rightly describes itself as the “flagship of the prolife movement.” Here are representative samples of its summaries. The very last one is directly from a report by the CDC itself.

National Right to Life Committee

“From recent data analyzed in these pages, we know the annual number of abortions continues to decline. This drop in numbers can be traced to a number of factors, but among them are the efforts by National Right to Life and its network of state affiliates to enact protective laws that provide legal protection to unborn children and offer hope and help to their mothers.”

NRLC Summary of Center for Disease Control and Prevention Report

“Significantly, abortion rates and abortion ratios also showed declines, both dropping to levels not seen since Roe legalized abortion nationwide in 1973. The CDC’s abortion rate is the number of abortions per 1,000 women aged 15-44 years. In 2015 it was 11.8, down from 12.1 from the previous year. In 1973 the abortion rate was 14 per thousand women aged 15-44. In 1972 the abortion rate was 13 per thousand in 1972.

Clearly abortion has become considerably less common than it’s been since abortion became legal throughout the nation. As a reference point, in 1980 the abortion rate was more than twice that — 25 per thousand — the largest figure CDC ever reported.”

NRLC Summary Guttmacher Institute Report

“Most abortions are performed on women under thirty — no statistical surprise. But this group saw their abortion rates drop more than did the over thirty group. About 110,000 of the 926,190 abortions performed in 2014 were on teenagers. Most of these (about 69%) were to young women aged 18-19. Women between the ages of 20 and 29, accounted for over 60% (556,240 of 926,190) of the abortions in 2014.

Older women (between 30 and 44) had 259,810. This represented 28% of the abortions in 2014.

Abortion rates for teens 15-17 fell 56% from 2008 to 2014, the highest drop for any demographic studied. This makes clearer than ever the impact of parental involvement laws. Abortion rates were higher for women in their twenties, but comparisons of 2014 rates to earlier ones from 2008 show interesting changes.

Women between the ages of 20 and 24, and those 25-29 saw abortion rates fall 30% and 21%, respectively.

Rates for older women did not drop as much from the previous 2008 count. They were down 20% for women between 30-34%. For women, 35-39, the decline was 11%. Finally there was a 16% drop for women 40-44.

It stuns people, but statistics consistently show, and it is once again demonstrated here, that most women having abortions have already given birth to at least one child. In 2014, a total of 59.3% of women who were having abortions had one (26.2%) or more (33.1%) previous births. Abortion rates were down for women who had given birth and those that hadn’t from 2008.

An August 2017 study by the Guttmacher Institute confirms that in 2014, nearly half of abortions — 44.8% — were actually repeat abortions, that is, abortions to women who have had at least one previous abortion.”

And an Additional Report form the Center for Disease Control and Prevention “Abortion Surveillance”

“The majority of abortions in 2015 took place early in gestation: 91.1% of abortions were performed at ≤13 weeks’ gestation; a smaller number of abortions (7.6%) were performed at 14–20 weeks’ gestation, and even fewer (1.3%) were performed at ≥21 weeks’ gestation. In 2015, 24.6% of all abortions were early medical abortions (a non-surgical abortion at ≤8 weeks’ gestation). The percentage of abortions reported as early medical abortions increased 114% from 2006 to 2015, with an 8% increase from 2014 to 2015.” Source: Abortion Surveillance — United States, 2015. MMWR Surveill Summ 2018;67(No. SS-13)

Personal Comments

This booklet contains more helpful demographic information about abortion in the United States. It makes clear that unscheduled pregnancies occur more frequently among women who are in difficult circumstances. The best way to reduce abortions is for men not to impregnate women when they don’t plan on taking care of any possible offspring. The next best thing is to improve the educational and financial circumstances of everyone involved. We SDAs are often better at the second of these than the first and much better at both of them than we are at writing guidelines. This does not mean that we shouldn’t try. It does mean that we should move slowly and adroitly. There are theoretical and practical landmines almost everywhere we turn.

David Larson is Professor of Religion at Loma Linda University Health.

Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Further Reading:

“Our Abortion Guidelines Are Too Good to Replace” by David Larson, September 16, 2019

“Abortion Law: Adventist Leaders Active Behind the Scenes” by Kent Kingston, September 18, 2019

“Amidst Growing Criticism Adventist Church is Revisiting Abortion Position” by Michael Peabody, September 23, 2019

The Seventh-day Adventist Church’s Official Guidelines on Abortion, approved and voted by the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists Executive Committee at the Annual Council session in Silver Spring, Maryland, October 12, 1992.

The current Spectrum print journal, volume 47, issue 3, includes additional articles on abortion.

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/9899

Abortion rates for teens 15-17 fell 56% from 2008 to 2014, the highest drop for any demographic studied. This makes clearer than ever the impact of parental involvement laws.

I’m not sure that the parental involvement laws are the primary impact. Wherever social media has spread, there has been a reduction in youth pregnancy and abortion. It’s more difficult to get pregnant engaging with you peers through social media, than face to face. Those who do get pregnant through social media generally claim some kind of miracle occurred, akin to the immaculate conception.

My problem with this article/opinion piece is that David Larson uses as his guide material provided by an organization that is a lobbying arm for the pro-life movement. That means they interpret any information (a) through their own lens (b) have an incentive to spin the facts to fit their desired narrative.

At the very least David Larson should do is look at other evidence that questions those assertions (the organization is saying that their movement of creating legislation to restrict abortions is the reason that it is declining. However, that is highly suspect since it is also declining in states that are not restricting abortion through legislative tactics).

I’m suggesting that as a university professor, David Larson should have some rigor to his assertions or at the least, not just accept a partisan’s evidence at face value.


I heard on the radio today that Mrs. Clinton and friend Congresswoman Palosi went to a
Celebration regarding Abortions this week.

Hmmm… I deliberately went to the most pro-life group out there so as to prevent the criticism that I chose a source that was more akin to my own views. I still think that it was right of me to do this. Yet your general point is that we should use only the best sources is a good one and I accept it, Thanks!


It has always amazed me to think that people who were blessed with life would consider death for others by selfishly killing them before they can speak for themselves. What does it say about humanity?

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So…what does it say?

This article is troubling because it recognizes the fact that fetuses are not really human, just tissues that aren’t alive unless you will them to live. Then it acts as if the trend in decreasing abortion is a good thing - the reality is that the pro-life advocates that stand against the principles of abortion are convincing people not to abort and that it is a human being. Less access. When was the last time you met a med school student who wanted to provide termination of pregnancy services? Does Loma Linda even teach third-trimester abortion techniques anymore?

The problem we have in the Adventist Church is that we’ve allowed anti-choice advocates to infiltrate the church and start to spread their Catholic propaganda that what we’re dealing with humans. There’s nothing human about them until the mother decides to give them birth instead of terminating the tissue accidentally or intentionally. The growing fetus is an invasive species in the mother and I think the author is right in saying that she should be able to with them as she wilt.

It used to be that you’d assume an Adventist was pro-choice. You’d hear pro-choice sermons.

We are a pro-choice church because we don’t believe that aborted fetuses have a soul. No woman should be made to feel guilty for an abortion. We cannot abandon our truth even if the enemy of choice invades us with the trojan horse of the so-called “right to life movement.”

Speak more boldly, brother!


Praise the Lord for life and wonderful children! Can we praise the Lord for killing them?
Praise the Lord for dead children! It was so much fun making them and now we get to kill the little nuisance!

What do the readers of this article say about the statement I just made, but definitely do not believe, except for the first sentence?

Thank you for the reasoned response. I realized after I posted that your comments were primarily for the purpose of not rushing to make the church’s abortion stance more restrictive and as such used source material that those looking to make it more restrictive would be inclined to continue.

Sam, I would disagree that we were a pro-choice church (maybe in the specific church’s you attended). Rather, I felt that the church was slightly pro-life, but with a large respect for differing opinions and for a desire to be non-political and working hard to make this issue not a litmus test for inclusion within the SDA family.

I think today in North America as the divisions within the church increase that we are becoming separated along US - left/right lines. If you support WO, are in favor of greater recognition for LGBTQ, are willing to consider that the Bible may not be entirely literal and that when science has different conclusions it’s worth considering - then you’ll also more likely to be Democratic, and pro-choice.

If you don’t support WO, think that the only place for gays within the church is when they have renounced being gay and believe in the inerrancy of the Scriptures and a literal translation of them; then you’re likely to be Republican and pro-life.

While these divisions have always existed this way, they are much more hardened then 20-30 years ago in my opinion.

You FORGOT us Independents.
Independent in THINKING, Independent in STUDYING, and independent
in making what we believe are CORRECT DECISIONS. And NOT
following Party Lines or having Party Labels attached to us.
Enjoy Conversation. Enjoy hearing other person’s views.
And Learn from each other.


And you really call yourself a Bible believing Christian??? Very sad…

This is the type of article I would expect to read in a secular arena. To think it is written by a Professor of Religion at one of the Highest Health Institutes in the land, owned by Seventh Day Adventists, who claim to believe and practice all 10 of the Commandments, is just mind boggling to me! For 50 years the SDA Church has hid this rotten to the core - dirty secret under the rug, just like Catholics have hid their sexual predator secrets, and it’s finally coming out of the closet! Somehow Adventists seem to think that as long as they keep the Sabbath, keeping the other 9 Commandments doesn’t really matter! And when Judgment Day comes, men and women who have written articles such as the one above, are going to see they are responsible for the murder of many. Their hands are dripping in blood.

I first learned about the murders in Adventist hospitals taking place back in the very early '80’s from the mouth of the then GC President himself, Neal Wilson. It was at a Q & A Session and someone raised their hand and asked him, “Why do our SDA hospitals perform abortions?” I was sure he was going to tell them they were misinformed, we don’t do abortions, abortions are murder…but no, he said, “If we don’t offer the women abortions, they will walk out our door, down the street to the next hospital that will perform it for them.” I nearly fell off the pew! My eyes became open from then on! I realized that it was all about $$$$. Blood $$$. And to think that this Church still claims to be the Remnant - the Church that keeps the commandments??? Truly, their light has been turned to dense darkness. Right has become Wrong and Wrong has become Right. I pray that the honest in heart will get their eyes open before it’s too late!

I don’t foresee the Church making a change on their Pro-Choice stand…it’s all about $$$ and they know if they take the Pro-Life stand they are going to ANGER over 50% of the members…they don’t have the backbone to do that! Shame on them!

Do you really need to scream at the readers in order to make your point relevant? (On the internet. words in capital letters are used for screaming at others).

By the way, I wonder how many of those pro-life people supported the Republican agenda of starting the Iraq war that was based on a bogus reason and killed ca. 5,000 of our best troops, ca. 400,000 civilians, and left tens of thousands of veterans handicapped. Anyone who stayed silent (and still is!) quiet about that war is “pro-death” and does not qualify for speaking on pro’life. This would be hypocritical!

Just as a disclosure, I do not support abortion unless when the pregnancy starts with rape or incest, or when the life of the mother is compromised, or if the fetus presents with serious health conditions that would make life unbearable. This decision belongs to the mother/father and the physicians. It’s private, none of the Church’s os Government’s business.

Just my opinion.

PS - I am also curious about the whereabouts of the "pro-lifers’ " voices regarding the inhumane conditions that the US Government is forcing thousands of children to be in right now. Some children have died! There are some so-called pro-lifers here on Spectrum, either just reading or even posting. Haven’t ever heard from a single one of them. What is happening with them that they are aphasic on this issue, uh???


George, I’m not screaming at anyone. If I only would have seen that I could bold words here, I’d not have capitalized them…I’m not used to being able to post without using caps to emphasize the important words. I don’t even raise my voice at people, let alone scream at them…but I do try to emphasize the important words. :smile:

So you believe that a child who is the product of rape or incest is less human, less valuable, than a child from a loving relationship, and that it’s OK to murder them? That is pretty sad, George.

I don’t know where the Pro-Lifers are on Spectrum…I know some of them have been banned, so that is probably why you haven’t heard from them. And perhaps, after 50 years, some of them have just given up trying to change the minds of Pro-Choicers.

There are really three options—pro-life, pro-Abortion, And pro-choice. I am firmly on the side of pro choice. Condemnation Of other views is not our domain.


Huh. Seems perfectly reasonable and proper to me.

Intent is not relevant. You are screaming until you fix your post.

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Sorry, didn’t see there was an EDIT button…I fixed the caps.