A common myth is that there are thousands and thousands of “nine month”or “late-term” abortions every year in the United States.In fact, every time I write on the subject I get comments like this one, regarding “partial birth abortion,”


or this one regarding abortions at term.


Fortunately there is actual data to tell us how many abortions are performed every year and at what gestational age. And no, we don’t get this data from ex-employees or YouTube, we can get it from the Centers for Disease Control. I will assume for these purposes that late-term means at or after 24 weeks (i.e. after viability). And as an aside the “Planned Parenthood video” that showed a delivery looked like a premature non-viable delivery, a far cry from term or “nine months” with no evidence at all to suggest it was an abortion.

Seven states and the District of Columbia currently have no gestational age limit for abortion. It would then only be in these states that post viability abortions would be happening. Other states do have some exemptions, for example Arkansas and Utah allow later abortions in cases of rape or incest, and some states have later-term exceptions for lethal anomalies (obviously a fetus with a lethal abnormality isn’t viable). I am not going to include those as gathering the data seems impossible as the CDC reporting doesn’t include a reason for the termination and doesn’t have a post 24 week category. For those with issues over terminations for lethal anomalies (for example anecephaly or holoprosencephaly) I will assume you also have an issue with the daily practice of not resuscitating non viable births.

We are supposed to believe that the abortions “on YouTube” and in the “ninth month” are normal pregnancies or pregnancies with very little that is wrong and that there are lots of them. Right up to the due date. If abortions for non lethal anomalies are happening after 23 weeks and 6 days they will be happening in the states with no restrictions. So I looked at the CDC data and pulled the number of procedures at or after 21 weeks for the States that have no gestational age limit (the data isn’t broken down any further). There was no 2012 data for D.C. and New Hampshire as they either did not report, did not report by gestational age, or did not meet reporting standards (not possible to know). For D.C. and New Hampshire I went back to 2009 and also looked up all the clinics to find the gestational age limits to try to get at least some data.

This is what I found for 2012, the last year with published data:

State Number abortions ≥21 weeks, 2012
Alaska 0
Colorado 87
DC Not reported, I assume 0 as 1 clinic offers up to 26 weeks and 0 ≥21 week terminations reported in 2011, 2010, 2009
New Hampshire Not reported, likely 0

Although not reported in 2011, 2010, and 2009 there are only 3 clinics in the state and only one offers 2nd trimester procedures

New Jersey 734
New Mexico 191
Oregon 166


Vermont 8
Total 1,186

West Virginia and Mississippi didn’t have gestational age limits in 2012 although they do now so I didn’t include them as neither reported abortions at or after 21 weeks in 2012 so it’s a bit moot. Oregon does not appear to have a practitioner specializing in later term abortions, although abortion data from the State is hard to get. Only one clinic does abortions up to 24 weeks. There may be some post 24 week procedures at hospitals in Oregon, but likely less than the other states.

Of the 699,202 abortions reported to the CDC in 2012, 0.17% were at or after 21 weeks and occurred in a state where it was possible to have a post viability abortion for any reason.  We know from other data sets that many procedures at or after 21 weeks are for fetal anomalies (some say about 80%) and many of these are before 24 weeks. A review of data from one clinic that does abortions after 24 weeks in a state with no gestational age limit shows a median gestational age of 22 weeks. It is a likely a fair extrapolation that all clinics specializing in later term procedures have a similar medial gestational age. Using all the available data it would be fair to say that at least 50% of the 1,186 procedures are < 24 weeks, but that may be higher.

The more advanced the procedure the more likely there is an anomaly. While most abortions at or after 24 weeks are for fetal anomalies there are definitely a few of these later procedures because of rape (especially among minors who may have been raped by a family member and are afraid to come forward or who were originally not believed), possible a few for mental health issues, and also because of delays in diagnosing pregnancy although these seem to be the exception.

Whatever your views on choice support your side with accurate statistics. There are obviously very few post 24 week pregnancy terminations in the United States. Most of the 1.3% of abortions at or after 21 weeks are for anomalies and the vast majority are before 24 weeks. There are approximately 600 abortions a year after 24 weeks and most are for fetal anomalies.





Join the Conversation


Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

  1. Thank You for the info…I’ve been trying for years to prove to my mother that 9 month old babies are not ripped out of the womb by the thousands all day everyday……

  2. Broad definition of health
    The Court’s opinion in Doe v. Bolton stated that a woman may obtain an abortion after viability, if necessary to protect her health. The Court defined “health” as follows:

    Whether, in the words of the Georgia statute, “an abortion is necessary” is a professional judgment that the Georgia physician will be called upon to make routinely. We agree with the District Court, 319 F. Supp., at 1058, that the medical judgment may be exercised in the light of all factors – physical, emotional, psychological, familial, and the woman’s age – relevant to the well-being of the patient. All these factors may relate to health.

    My words: These above words relate to the Doe v. Bolton Supreme Court ruling, the companion piece to Roe v. Wade which states that a woman may have an abortion after viability (child can live outside of the womb) for “health” reasons. They defined “health” as “well-being,” meaning any reason.

  3. The angry “Jim” on Twitter tried the old quote-the-Hippocratic-Oath tactic. What Jim may not be aware of is the rest of the oath, which is contrary to all sorts of things modern medicine does. We ignore the oath every time we perform surgery and every time we charge money for med school[!]. The reason “first do no harm” is quoted so much is because the rest of the oath has been largely ignored, and for good reasons. It was an oath created by people who believed in humors and had no idea that women produced eggs.

%d bloggers like this: