An estimate published by the National Right to Life Committee this time in 2011 indicated there have been an estimated 54,559,615 abortions since the Supreme Court handed down its 1973 Roe vs. Wade decision allowing virtually unlimited abortions.
In the document, “Abortion Statistics: United States Data and Trends,” NRLC education director Dr. Randall K. O’Bannon estimates that there have been 54,559,615 abortions since 1973 based on data from both the Centers for Disease Control and the pro-abortion Guttmacher Institute, a former Planned Parenthood research arm. Guttmacher receives numbers directly from abortion centers themselves and is the prime source for more current figures because the Centers for Disease Control has never tabulated accurate numbers of abortions. The CDC relies on figures from state health departments, some of which rely on voluntary reporting — and it hasn’t had data from some states such as California and New Hampshire for more than a decade.
“Because of these different methods of data collection, GI has consistently obtained higher counts than the CDC. CDC researchers have admitted it probably undercounts the total number of abortions because reporting laws vary from state to state and some abortionists probably do not report or under-report the abortions they perform,” O’Bannon says.
The number means there are more than 3,300 abortions daily and 137 abortions per hour every hour in the United States. Translated another way, an abortion is done about every 30 seconds in the United States.
The analysis also found that the best estimate for the current number of annual abortions in the United States — involving both the surgical abortion procedure as well as the dangerous abortion drug RU 486 — is 1.2 million.
Adding another year of 1.2 million abortions to the 2011 total National Right to Life estimated based on Guttmacher and CDC figures, and America has seen 55,772.015 abortions since Roe v. Wade.
The number of total abortions in the United States overall is higher because some states, such as California, New York, and Colorado, legalized abortions prior to Roe. Those pre-Roe abortion figures are difficult to obtain — though some estimate at least one million abortions may have occurred in these states in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
The good news for pro-life advocates is that abortions are on the decline. Abortions fell five percent nationwide in 2009, according to the most recent information from the CDC, the biggest drop in 10 years.
The NRLC analysis shows abortion numbers rising in the 1970s and, in the 1980s, abortion eventually mainstreamed itself to the point that about 1.55 million abortions were done annually until the early 1990s. At that point, as crisis pregnancy centers began turning the corner with the use of ultrasounds, pro-life state legislation began to take hold and the Internet allowed the pro-life perspective to flourish, abortions began to decline. The partial-birth abortion ban and the use of 3-D and 4-D ultrasounds is also credited.
“After reaching a high of over 1.6 million in 1990, the number of abortions annually performed in the U.S. has dropped back to levels not seen since the late 1970s,” NRLC says.
The Guttmacher Institute’s most recent abortion figures, from 2005, confirm the downward trend from a high of 1.6 million abortions in 1990 to 1.2 million that year. Without any hard figures in the last few years, NRLC estimates the number of abortions from 2006 to today at the same rate of 1.2 million that GI reported.
To calculate the overall number of abortions, NRLC includes the hard figures from 1973-2005, the estimates for the last few years and also includes the Guttmacher Institute’s admission that its own figures are likely about three percent lower than the actual totals because of potential errors in reporting.
“Abortion has taken a terrible toll on America. We’ve now lost more than 54 million of our sons, daughters, friends, and neighbors and we are a much poorer nation for it,” O’Bannon said.
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“Over the past twenty years, however, we have seen that pro-life efforts can make a difference, as the number of abortions performed in the U.S. has declined from 1.6 million to 1.2 million a year. We’ve still a long way to go, obviously, but we see that pro-life legislation, education, and outreach can save and has saved hundreds of thousands of lives,” O’Bannon added. “Our task is great, but our cause is just.”
As abortions have declined, the number of surgical abortion centers has declined as well. According to Operation Rescue, in 1991, there were over 2,176 surgical abortion clinics in America. Today there are 663. Nearly 70% of all surgical abortion clinics have closed in that time.
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