Abortion is the termination of a pregnancy by the removal or expulsion of an embryo or fetus. Abortions can be performed surgically or by medication.
The Supreme Court decision of Roe v. Wade states that governments cannot regulate a woman’s decision to have an abortion before the viability of the fetus. After viability, no government can impose a regulation that favors a fetus’s life over the mother’s. Even with this decision, abortion has caused nationwide controversy and has divided people into pro-life or pro-choice camps.
Recently, some states have been proposing legislation to further restrict abortions earlier than fetus viability. States have recently introduced the “heartbeat” bill, which prohibits abortions have six weeks of pregnancy or when a fetal heartbeat can be detected.
With such controversy over the procedure, one might not realize how frequently abortions happen. According to 2014 data from the Guttmacher Institute, there were a total of 926,240 abortions in the United States.
Abortion rate is calculated as the number of abortions per 1,000 women ages 15-44 years old. The ten states with the highest abortion rates were:
- District of Columbia (32.7)
- New York (29.6)
- New Jersey (25.8)
- Maryland (23.4)
- Florida (20.6)
- California (19.5)
- Nevada (19.4)
- Connecticut (19.2)
- Rhode Island (17)
- Delaware (16.7)
States with the Highest Abortion Rates
The District of Columbia has the highest abortion rate in America of 32.7. The District of Columbia had a total of 5,820 abortions in 2014, about 38% of total pregnancies. In the 1971 Supreme Court case United States v. Vuitch, a federal district judge made the first federal court decision declaring an abortion law unconstitutional and allowing abortion for “health’ reasons including “psychological and physical well-being.” As a result, D.C. became a destination for women seeking abortion that year. As of 2017, there is only one Planned Parenthood clinic in Washington D.C. offering abortion services.
New York has the second-highest abortion rate of 29.6. New York had a total of 119,940 abortions, about 33% of total pregnancies. In 2019, New York passed the Reproductive Health Act (RHA), repealing a pre-Roe v. Wade provision that banned third-trimester abortions except in cases where the pregnancy endangers the woman. The bill also allowed qualified health practitioners to perform abortions, not just licensed medical doctors. As of May 14, 2019, the state prohibited abortions after the fetus is viable, generally at some point between 24 and 28 weeks.
New Jersey has the third-highest abortion rate in America of 25.8. New Jersey had a total of 44,460 abortions in 2014, about 30% of total pregnancies. New Jersey is one of the few states in America that lacks mandatory consent for minors to get abortions, either through parental notification or a judicial bypass. The state also does not require waiting periods or prohibit state funding for abortions.
Maryland has the fourth-highest abortion rate of 23.4. Maryland had a total of 28,140 abortions, about 28% of total pregnancies. In Maryland, five Planned Parenthood clinics offer abortion services. In response to the abortion bans in Alabama and Georgia, former Maryland House Speaker Michael Busch proposed an amendment to Maryland’s constitution to preserve the right for women to have an abortion. As of May 14, 2019, the state prohibited abortions after the fetus is viable, generally at some point between 24 and 28 weeks.
Florida has the fifth-highest abortion rate in America of 20.6. Florida had a total of 75,990 abortions, about 26% of total pregnancies. In 2019, two attempts were made to implement a fetal heartbeat bill, House Bill 235 and Senate Bill 792, both of which were defeated in the Health Quality Committee and Health Policy, respectively. As of May 14, 2019, the state prohibited abortions after the fetus is viable, generally at some point between 24 and 28 weeks.
States with the Lowest Abortion Rates
Wyoming has the lowest abortion rate of 1.1. Wyoming only had a total of 120 abortions in 2014, about 2% of total pregnancies. There is only one abortion clinic in the entire state. As of May 14, 2019, the state prohibited abortions after the fetus is viable, generally at some point between 24 and 28 weeks. In 2017, a law passed that required abortion service providers to give women an ultrasound before the procedure.
South Dakota has the second-lowest abortion rate of 3.5. South Dakota only had 550 abortions, about 4% of total pregnancies. South Dakota only has one abortion clinic in the whole state. As of May 2019, abortion is prohibited after 22 weeks.
The state with the third-lowest abortion rate is Mississippi, which has an abortion rate of 3.8. Mississippi had 2,290 abortions, about 6% of total pregnancies. Mississippi has one abortion clinic. On March 22, 2019, the fetal heartbeat bill was signed into law by Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant, which was blocked by Judge Carlton Reeves on May 24, 2019.
Kentucky has the fourth-lowest abortion rate in America of 4.1. Kentucky had 3,530 abortions in 2014, about 6% of total pregnancies. On March 15, 2019, Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin signed the fetal heartbeat bill, which was temporarily blocked in court by a federal judge on the same day. Before the heartbeat bill, abortions in Kentucky were banned after 20 weeks of pregnancy.
Idaho has the fifth-lowest abortion rate of 4.2. There were 1,320 abortions in Idaho, about 5% of total pregnancies. As of 2017, there are three abortion clinics in Idaho. As of May 14, 2019, the state prohibited abortions after the fetus is viable, generally at some point between 24 and 28 weeks.