ABORTION: California Still Leads Nation
The abortion rate dipped slightly in California in 1996, but the state nonetheless has the highest abortion rate in the nation, a position it has held since 1984, according to a CDC state-by-state review published in today's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. California's abortion rate among women ages 15-44 was 39 per 1,000 in 1996, down slightly from 40 per 1,000 a year earlier but well above the national average of 20 per 1,000. New York had the second highest rate in 1996, with 37 abortions per 1,000 women; Florida came in third with 27; followed by Delaware with 26 and Rhode Island with 24. Nationwide, there were 1,221,585 abortions in 1996, up 0.9% from the year earlier, marking the "first time abortion had failed to decline since 1990, when the total was more than 1.4 million" (Mays, AP/Nando Times, 7/29). States posting an abortion rate lower than the national average were Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado and South Carolina, with 11 per 1,000 women; Indiana, Missouri and Oklahoma with 10; Kentucky, New Hampshire and Utah with eight; Mississippi with seven; South Dakota and West Virginia with six; and Idaho with four ( AP/Baltimore Sun, 7/30).
Age, Race Matters
According to the CDC study, women who obtained abortions in 1996 were more likely to be under age 25, white and unmarried. Women in their early 20s obtained one-third of all abortions, while women younger than 15 accounted for less than 1% of all abortions. The abortion rate for women ages 20-24 years was 38 per 1,000 women, compared with two per 1,000 for both girls under 15 and for women ages 40-44. White women accounted for 57% of all abortions, compared to 34% for black women and 9.1% for Hispanics and other ethnic groups.
Early but not Often
Most women obtaining abortions were doing so for the first time. The percentage of women undergoing abortions before eight weeks gestation increased with age, while the percentage of women who obtained later abortions decreased with age up to 30-34 years and remained stable for older age groups. More than half of all abortions performed in 1996 (55%) occurred before eight weeks gestation, and nearly 88% were performed before 13 weeks gestation. Few abortions were performed after 15 weeks gestation, the CDC found, as only 4% were obtained at 16-20 weeks and 1.5% at more than 21 weeks. Younger women were more likely to wait until later in their pregnancy to receive an abortion, the researchers found.
Abortions performed on out-of-state residents accounted for approximately 50% of legal abortions performed in the District of Columbia, followed by Kansas, North Dakota, South Dakota, Vermont and Kentucky. Data were not available for seven states -- including the top-ranking three -- California, Florida and New York. Study author Lisa Koonin and colleagues at the CDC attributed the low abortion rate for 1995 and 1996 -- 20 per 1,000 is the lowest recorded since 1975 -- to several factors, "including the decreasing number of unintended pregnancies; a shift in the age distribution of reproductive-aged women ... reduced access to abortion services; and changes in contraceptive practices, including an increased use of contraceptives" (Koonin et al., Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, 7/30).