56,662,169 Abortions in America Since Roe vs. Wade in 1973

National   Randy O'Bannon, Ph.D.   Jan 12, 2014   |   5:11PM    Washington, DC

Given the trends seen in recent national reports, National Right to Life now believes that there have been over 56 million abortions since 1973.

One critical piece of evidence in that calculation arrived in November of 2013, when the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reported its latest national figures. It was important to find out whether the drop in abortions for 2009 seen by the CDC–4.6%–would continue in 2010. If it dropped again, we’d have some confidence that the 2009 figure wasn’t just some odd statistical aberration, that there really was some real and significant decline. It did.

As reported in NRL News Today, abortions for 2010 declined another 3.1%, according to the CDC. (See “CDC Report Shows Decline in Abortions for 2010; abortion rates and ratios both down”)

We typically like to compare and confirm those trends with data from the Guttmacher Institute, the former special research affiliate of Planned Parenthood which publishes its own private study.

Guttmacher, which surveys abortion clinics, hospitals, and private practice physicians directly, has higher and what are widely thought to be more reliable abortion numbers. Unlike the CDC, however, they do not survey every year, and have not, as of this date, published anything more recent than 2008 data when Guttmacher reported there were 1,212,400 abortions.

The CDC publishes national totals of its own. However they have been missing data from several states, including the nation’s most populous, California, since 1998, so their recent totals leave out hundreds of thousands of abortions. It creates a bit of a conundrum, because the new CDC data showing the trend doesn’t really give a complete national count, while better national annual tally, from Guttmacher, is years out of date. Under the circumstances, the best one can do is to apply the trend from one to the total from the other and extrapolate. It’s not ideal, but it allows you to produce a justifiable ballpark estimate.

Thus the 56 million+ figure comes from the mathematical application of the assumption that the Guttmacher numbers will roughly reflect the same declining percentage in the number of abortions that the CDC found.


The long term trend is fewer abortions, and the number is down significantly from 1990 when the country saw 1.6 million abortions a year. As one measure of the impact your work has had, if the number of abortions had remained at 1.6 million, more than seven MILLION more babies would have died.

The publication of data from the CDC last November is good reason to believe there is a new major downward trend. The drop of 3.1% for 2010 was not as large as the 4.6% drop for 2009, but it is still considerable and the arrows are pointing in the same direction.

We obviously can’t know in advance whether the numbers Guttmacher will publish later this year will show the same drop off. However if those same percentage of declines CDC found were applied to the number Guttmacher reported for 2008, the number of abortions for 2009 would become 1,156,630. Likewise, for 2010 the number of abortions would be 1,120,775.

So far, so good.

If one assumes that the 1,120,775 number held constant from 2011 to 2013, the total number of abortions would be 54,972,980.

But Guttmacher concedes that it might undercount the number by 3%. Add that 3% and it yields a total of 56,662,169 abortions since 1973.

Despite the seeming precision, this is not an exact number. No such number is possible. There will always be missed abortions, missed abortionists. Adjustments, however careful, will always be imprecise.

But given the data we have, we feel it is reasonable to assume that we have now seen at least 56 million lives lost since Roe and are looking at topping 57 million sometime in the coming year.

We will, of course, revise our numbers accordingly when Guttmacher publishes figures from its latest survey. But unless the trajectory of those numbers wildly diverges from trends recently reported by the CDC, we expect things to remain within that 56 to 57 million range.

Of course, we all know that we are talking about more than just numbers or statistics. The blood of more than 56 million aborted babies represents an enormous stain on our national conscience and a heavy burden on our hearts.



But these numbers also show us that our efforts have not been in vain. As noted above, if our nation had continued at the rate of 1.6 million abortions a year we saw in 1990, our cumulative total would have been approaching 64 million by now.

That would translate into approximately 7 million more babies alive today than would have otherwise been the case. That is the equivalent to the number of abortions performed over a span of six to seven years–living human beings alive today because of you!

Of course the Movement has a long way to go to return full legal protection to unborn children. But never underestimate the importance of what you, grassroots pro-life America, are doing.

What you do makes a real difference.

LifeNews.com Note: Randall O’Bannon, Ph.D., is the director of education and research for the National Right to Life Committee. This column originally appeared at NRL News Today.