The abortion rate among teens ages 15 to 19 declined by 67 percent between 1990 and 2011. Among both older and younger teens, abortion rates have been declining since the late 1980s.
About a quarter of all teenage pregnancies in the U.S. end in abortion. Three in four teenage pregnancies (75 percent) are unintended, and two out of every five unintended teen pregnancies (42 percent) ended in abortion in 2011. Teens may choose to have an abortion because they have concerns about how having a baby would derail important personal goals (for example, completing their education); they worry about the financial responsibilities associated with parenthood; or they feel that they are not mature enough to become a parent. Teen abortion rates are sensitive to a number of factors, including whether pregnancies are intended, personal choice, and policies that expand or restrict access to abortion.
Government estimates indicate that teen abortion rates increased during the 1970s, stabilized during the 1980s at around 43 per 1,000 females ages 15 to 19, then decreased steadily to about 14 per 1,000 by 2011. Similar declines are evident for all age groups. (Figure 2)
Rates for white, black, and Hispanic females have all fallen substantially since the early 1990s, although declines started a bit later for Hispanic females, in 1993. As of 2011, abortion rates have decreased by 74 percent among white teens, by 70 percent among Hispanic teens, and by 59 percent among black teens, since their respective peaks. (Figure 3)
Much of the decline in the teen abortion rate is related to a drop in the rate of teen pregnancy (which includes abortions, as well as births and fetal deaths). However, the proportion of teen pregnancies that end in abortion peaked in 1985, at 40 percent, and has been decreasing since then. In 2011, 26 percent of teen pregnancies ended in abortion. (Figure 1) 
Differences by Age
Abortion rates are lower for younger than for older teens. In 2011, the rate for teens under 15 was 2.2 per 1,000, compared with 7.5 per 1,000 for teens 15 to 17, and 22.2 per 1,000 among teens 18 to 19. (Figure 2) Although the abortion rate is higher among older teens, the proportion of pregnancies that end in abortion is twice as high among those younger than 15 as it is among their older peers.
Differences by Race and Hispanic Origin
Abortion rates are much higher for black teens than for white and Hispanic teens. In 2011, there were 32.6 abortions per 1,000 black females ages 15-19, compared with 8.5 per 1,000 white adolescent females, and 12.7 per 1,000 Hispanic adolescent females. However, abortion rates among black adolescents have fallen more than have rates for the other groups, so the gap has narrowed over time. (Figure 3)
State and Local Estimates
State estimates are available from the following sources:
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2015). Abortion Surveillance — United States, 2012. (See Tables 3 and 5)
Kost, K. & Maddow-Zimet, I. (2016). U.S. teenage pregnancies, births and abortions, 2011: National and state trends and trends by age, race and ethnicity. New York, NY: Guttmacher Institute.
International estimates for select countries are available from
the following sources:
Sedgh, G, Finer, L. B., Bankole, A., Eilers, M. A., & Singh, S. (2015). Adolescent pregnancy, birth, and abortion rates across countries: levels and recent trends . Journal of Adolescent Health, 56(2), 223–230.
And for regions from the Guttmacher Institute
Healthy People 2020 includes several national goals related to teen abortion, including reductions in pregnancy, increases in rates of abstinence, and, among sexually active teens, increases in condom and hormonal birth control use.
More information is available here.
What Works to Make Progress on This Indicator
See: Ball, V, and Moore, K. A. What works for adolescent reproductive health: Lessons from experimental evaluations of programs and interventions.
Also, see the U.S. Office of Adolescent Health’s list of interventions meeting its criteria for effectiveness in pregnancy prevention
- Teen Pregnancy
- Teen Births
- Fertility and Birth Rates
- Birth Control Pill Use
- Condom Use
- Sexually Active Teens
- Sexually Experienced Teens
- “Statutory Rape” (Sex between Young Teens and Older Individuals)
Abortion rates are calculated by dividing the number of reported abortions by the female population (in thousands). For example, among adolescent females ages 15 to 19, the rate is calculated by dividing the number of abortions to females ages 15 to 19 by the number of females ages 15 to 19 in the population (in thousands). For adolescent females under age 15, the rate is calculated by dividing the number of abortions by the total population of females aged 14. Data on abortions are collected from surveys administered to abortion providers.
Race/ethnicity data, except for 15- to 19-year-olds: Curtin, S. C., Abma, J. C., Ventura, S. J., Henshaw, S. K. (2013). Pregnancy rates for U.S. women continue to drop. NCHS Data Brief No. 136. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/databriefs/db136.pdf.
All other data: Kost, K. & Maddow-Zimet, I. (2016). U.S. teenage pregnancies, births and abortions, 2011: National and state trends and trends by age, race and ethnicity. New York, NY: Guttmacher Institute. Available at: https://www.guttmacher.org/sites/default/files/report_pdf/us-teen-pregnancy-trends-2011_0.pdf.
Raw Data Source
Guttmacher Abortion Provider Surveys from the Guttmacher Institute
Appendix 1 – Abortion Rates1 (abortions per 1,000 females) for Adolescents by Age, Race, and Hispanic Origin, Selected Years, 1976-2011
|15-19 years old||31.5||43.3||44||41.1||29.9||24.3||22.9||21.5||20.8||19.9||19.1||19.3||18.6||18.1||16.6||15||13.5|
|Under 15 years old3||7.3||8.5||9.3||8.1||5.9||4.4||4.2||3.9||3.7||3.4||3.3||3.1||3.1||3||2.8||2.5||2.2|
|15-17 years old||22.5||30.5||31||26.9||19.8||14.7||13.6||13||12.6||11.8||11.4||11.4||11||10.6||9.6||8.6||7.5|
|18-19 years old||45.1||61.2||62.7||59.5||45.5||38.4||36.6||34.4||33.1||31.9||30.9||31.3||30.2||29.1||26.4||24.2||22.2|
|1Race/ethnicity rates for the under 15, 15 to 17 and 18 to 19 age groups use 1976 as the base year to calculate abortion rates. All other data use base year 2010
2Includes all persons of Hispanic origin regardless of race.
3Rates are calculated as the number of abortions experienced by women aged 14 and younger divided by the female population aged 14. The denominator is limited to 14‐year‐olds because the majority of all pregnancies among women aged 14 and younger occur among 14‐year‐olds.
Sources: Race/ethnicity data except for 15 to 19 year-olds: Curtin, S. C., Abma, J. C., Ventura, S. J., Henshaw, S. K. (2013). Pregnancy rates for U.S. women continue to drop. NCHS Data Brief No. 136. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/databriefs/db136.pdf.
All other data: Kost, K. & Maddow-Zimet, I. (2016). U.S. teenage pregnancies, births and abortions, 2011: National and state trends and trends by age, race and ethnicity. New York, NY: Guttmacher Institute. Available at https://www.guttmacher.org/sites/default/files/report_pdf/us-teen-pregnancy-trends-2011_0.pdf.
Child Trends calculations based on data from: Kost, K. & Maddow-Zimet, I. (2016). U.S. teenage pregnancies, births and abortions, 2011: National and state trends and trends by age, race and ethnicity. New York, NY: Guttmacher Institute. Available at: https://www.guttmacher.org/sites/default/files/report_pdf/us-teen-pregnancy-trends-2011_0.pdf
Finer, L. B., & Zolna, M. R. (2016). Declines in unintended pregnancy in the United States, 2008-2011. New England Journal of Medicine, 374, 843-852. Available at: http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMsa1506575#t=article
GGuttmacher Institute. (2016). American teens’ sexual and reproductive health [Electronic Version]. Retrieved October 18, 2016. Available at: https://www.guttmacher.org/sites/default/files/factsheet/fb-atsrh.pdf
Kost, K. & Maddow-Zimet, I. (2016). Op. cit.
Rates computed by dividing the number of abortions to females under age 15 years, by the total number of females 14 years of age. Data in appendices are calculated differently.
Kost, K. & Maddow-Zimet, I. (2016). Op. cit.
Hispanics may be any race. Estimates for whites in this report do not include Hispanics of that race.
Child Trends Databank. (2016). Teen Abortions. Available at: https://www.childtrends.org/?indicators=teen-abortions
Last updated: October 2016