What we know about abortion February 20, 2010Posted by Sara Imershein MD in Healthcare.
In 1969 the CDC began data collection on “abortion.” The medical term abortion refers to ANY pregnancy that ends prior to viability, whether spontaneous or induced, whether a normal pregnancy or abnormal, or even a tubal pregnancy. The CDC however, uses the political term abortion to refer to the termination of a pregnancy by a licensed, qualified health care practitioner. The Handbook on the Reporting of Induced Termination of Pregnancy, published in 1988 and updated in 1997, uses the correct alternative medical terminology induced termination of pregnancy
read onWell-respected obstetrician-gynecologist and medical researcher David Grimes and Gretchen Stuart criticize the terminology confusion in their article published recently in Contraception, “Abortion jabberwocky: the need for better terminology.”
The contentious issue of abortion is riddled with jabberwocky…terminology that is contradictory, obsolete, ambiguous and misleading. Both the lay and professional literature uses obstetrical terms improperly, including “abortion.”
Of note, Sociology Professor and abortion historian Carole Joffe addresses the political implications and ambiguity of the word CHOICE in her RHrealityCheck blog.
Compounding confusion about terminology, the CDC reveals data reporting by States is voluntary. It is likely these statistics do not include terminations performed in doctors’ offices or paid for privately. Anecdotally, some Institutional Review Boards (IRB) at otherwise well-respected university medical centers have refused permission for abortion-related research because of misplaced fear that the Hyde Amendment’s prohibition of Federal money for abortion services will result in a decrease in institutional grant money if they permit research, even if abortion is not funded by research funds. The misperception of the Hyde Amendment’s reach further limits accurate data on abortion in America and compromises research benefiting women.
CDC data has several main uses in public health:
- Identify characteristics of women who are at high risk of unintended pregnancy.
- Evaluate the effectiveness of programs for reducing teen pregnancies and preventing unintended pregnancy among women of all ages.
- Calculate pregnancy rates based on the number of pregnancies ending in abortion in conjunction with birth data and fetal loss estimates.
- Monitor changes in clinical practice patterns related to abortion, such as changes in the types of procedures used, and weeks of gestation at the time of abortion.
CDC’s datasets are not available for public use. Data is published in aggregate. States are assured strict confidentiality in exchange for releasing State data. The National Library of Medicine search engines can identify other sources of data on abortion, both domestic and global. CDC data on abortion is published regularly, although the most recent year for analysis is 2006, published in 2009.
- Half of American Women experience an unintended pregnancy; about one-third have an abortion.
- About 60% of abortions are obtained by women who are already mothers. The majority of abortion patients are women in their 20s.
- Adolescents 17 and younger represent less than 7% of abortion patients.
- Nearly 90% of U.S. counties lack a facility that provides abortions, and 35% of U.S. women live in those counties.
- Nearly two-thirds of abortions are performed in the first eight weeks of pregnancy, i.e. six weeks after conception.
- Abortion is an extremely low-risk medical procedure. Less than 0.3% of U.S. abortion patients experience complications requiring hospitalization.
- In a 2004 study of women’s reasons for having abortions, nearly one-third said they had children or other dependents to care for.