40 Interesting Abortion Facts

By Karin Lehnardt, Senior Writer
Published December 8, 2016
  • Eastern Europe has the highest abortion rate in the world, at 43 abortions per 1,000 women.[1]
  • Approximately 90% of fetuses that are diagnosed with Down syndrome in utero are aborted.[18]
  • In the U.S black women are at least 5 times more likely than white women to have an abortion. Approximately 1,876 black babies are aborted every day.[3]
  • Approximately 51% of U.S. adults say abortion should be legal in all or most cases. About 43% say it should be illegal all or most of the time. These figures have remained fairly stable for the past 20 years.[13]
  • In 2000, 154 pregnant women in the United States were incorrectly told their fetuses had Down syndrome. Two abortions were performed.[18]
  • Ancient physicians recommended abortion methods that were often bizarre and dangerous
  • Physicians such as Pliny the Elder (A.D. 23-79) discuss “superstitious” ways to have an abortion, such as crossing over the egg of a crow or crossing over the menstrual blood of another woman.[17]
  • An ancient Egyptian Papyrus suggests crocodile feces as an abortifacient. Other ancient physicians recommend smearing the uterine lining with goose fat, mashed leek and celery, boiled honey, and even mouse dung.[17]
  • Surgical abortion was well known in the ancient world. Ancient texts such as Diseases of Women, Superfetation and On the excision of the foetus refer to a surgical tool called an embruosphaktes, which means “embryo-slayer.”[12]
  • During the depression, abortion rates in the U.S. rose dramatically when pregnancy threatened a woman’s job.[14]
  • Norma McCorvey is “Jane Roe” in the Roe vs. Wade case. She has since become pro-life and is the founder of “Roe No More,” an organization that provides counseling for women seeking an abortion.[15]
  • Nazi Germany prohibited women who were considered “good stock” from obtaining abortions, though it permitted abortions for those who were “hereditarily ill.”[2]
  • Each year, approximately 47,000 women die from back-street abortions around the world. Five million more are admitted to the hospital with complications.[16]
  • There about 208 million pregnancies each year globally. Of these, 31 million end in miscarriage or fetal death from natural causes. About 41 million (20%) end in abortion. About half of these abortions are illegal.[10]
  • In the Unites Sates, there are about 1.2 million abortions each year, or about 3,322 abortions a day. The abortion rate has declined steadily since 1980.[19]
  • In the United States, 30% of women will have an abortion by the age 45.[19]
  • Utah passed a law that requires doctors to give anesthesia to a fetus prior to performing an abortion that occurs at 20 weeks of gestation or later
  • Fetal pain is extremely difficult to determine in early months of pregnancy because pain involves complex sensory, emotional, and cognitive factors. Many scholars suggest a fetus can feel pain around 28 weeks' gestation.[2]
  • About 59% of women who have abortions in the United States are already mothers.[19]
  • Some of the highest abortion rates in the world are in Latin American countries and other places where abortion is highly restricted but contraception is difficult to find.[10]
  • Some of the lowest abortion rates are in countries in Western Europe where modern contraceptives are readily available and where abortion is safe, legal, and accessible.[10]
  • An estimated 225 million women in developing regions don’t have adequate access to contraceptives.[10]
  • Madame Restell was one of the most famous abortionists in Britain in the mid- 1800s. She committed suicide by cutting her own throat after she was charged and faced with jail time.[14]
  • Famous women who have talked about their own abortions include Chelsea Handler, Sharon Osborne, Vanessa Williams, Margaret Cho, Toni Braxton, Gloria Steinem, Sherri Shepherd, Joan Collins, Penny Marshall, Maureen McCormick, Sinead O’Connor, Whoopi Goldberg, and Billie Jean King.[6]
  • In ancient India, it was acceptable for the untouchables (the lowest caste) to have abortions anytime they wanted. It was illegal for the top 3 castes, and a woman who had an abortion could be executed.[2]
  • The pain of tooth extraction was believed to cause an abortion
  • As late as 1870, it was common for abortionists to pull an expectant woman’s tooth. It was believed the pain and shock of the extraction without anesthetic would cause an abortion.[14]
  • According to Aristotle, a male embryo gains a soul after 40 days gestation, while a female gains a soul after 90 days. For Aristotle, an abortion is acceptable before “quickening.”[12]
  • In the 7th century, the Catholic Church believed that oral sex was a worse sin than abortion.[12]
  • Traditionally, Islam allows an abortion before 4 months gestation or if the mother’s life is in danger. An abortion after 4 months is considered murder or infanticide.[12]
  • Nearly 1 in 3 women who sought a back-street abortion in New York City during the 1800s died.[15]
  • For years, if someone asked Siri to find an abortion clinic nearby, the program would direct the user to crisis pregnancy centers instead.[20]
  • Frank Sinatra’s mother carried out illegal abortions free of charge. Local women called her “hatpin Dolly.”[8]
  • Marie-Louise Giraurd (1903-1943) was one of the last women to be guillotined in France. She was convicted of performing 27 abortions in the Cherbourg area and was guillotined on July 30, 1943.[12]
  • In 2016, a pregnant woman’s boyfriend executed her because she refused to have an abortion.[9]
  • In 1821, Connecticut became the first state in the United States to ban abortions after “quickening.”[14]
  • Early feminists believed abortion may provide a cop-out for the men
  • Early feminists, such as Elizabeth Cady Stanton (1815-1902) and Susan B. Anthony believed abortion was a male tool for exploiting women and for avoiding the responsibility of supporting a family.[15]
  • Feminist advocate Gloria Steinem once said that if “men could get pregnant, abortion would be a sacrament.”[4]
  • During WW II, a Jewish gynecologist at Auschwitz performed abortions—with just her hands--to save pregnant women from being tortured and killed.[5]
  • In 1982, more than 16,000 aborted fetuses were found in a repossessed storage container at Malvin Weisberg’s Woodland Hills home. While Weisberg’s company, Medical Analytic Laboratories, had stored the fetuses properly, it ran out of money before it could dispose of them properly.[11]
  • Approximately 37% of viable pregnancies end in abortion in New York City. The city’s abortion rate is double the national average.[7]
  • North Dakota became the first state to prohibit abortions if a genetic test shows a genetic abnormality or potential abnormality.[18]
  • There are two different kinds of abortion: 1) a medical abortion, where a woman takes abortion pills, and 2) a surgical abortion, where doctors directly remove the fetus. The kind of abortion a woman has depends on the length of pregnancy and the woman’s preference.[15]
References

1Abortion Around the World.” CBS News. Accessed: May 29, 2016. http://www.cbsnews.com/pictures/abortion-around-the-world-where-are-rates-highest/ References

2Bailey, Jacqui. Ethical Debates: Abortion. New York, NY: The Rosen Publishing Group, Inc, 2012.

3Black Genocide.” 2012. Accessed: May 29, 2016.

4Brockes, Emma. “Gloria Steinem: “If Men Could Get Pregnant, Abortion Would be A Sacrament.” The Guardian. October 17, 2015. Accessed: May 12, 2016.

5Brozan, Nadine. “Out of Death, a Zest for Life.” The New York Times. November 15, 1982. Accessed: December 7, 2016.

6Butler, Meg. “Celebrities Reveal Their Powerful Abortion Stories.” Madamenoire. April 16, 2016. Accessed: December 78, 2106. 

7Campanile, Carl. “Abortion Rate Plummets in New York City.” New York Post. February 17, 2014. Accessed: May 29, 2016.

8Edge, Simon. “Frank Sinatra: Sex, Lies, Shame, and Abortion.” Sunday Express. November 22, 2011. Accessed: May 29, 2016.

9Holley, Peter. “’She Loved Being a Mother’: Pregnant Woman Executed for Refusing Abortion, Family Says.” The Washington Post. May 18, 2016. Accessed: May 29, 2016.

10Induced Abortion Worldwide: Global Incidence and Trends.” Guttmacher Institute. 2016. Accessed: May 29, 2016.

11Jalon, Allan. “Fetuses Left Unburied Prompt Song by Pat Boone.” LA Times. May 14, 1985. Accessed: May 12, 2016.

12Kapparis, Konstantinos. Abortion in the Ancient World. London, England: Gerald Duckworth & Co. Ltd, 2002.

13Lipke, Michael. “5 Facts about Abortion.” Pew Research Center. March 1, 2016. Accessed: May 29, 2016.

14Mohr, James C. Abortion in America: The Origins and Evolution of National Policy, 1800-1900. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 1978.

15Palmer, Louis Jr. Encyclopedia of Abortion in the United States. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company, Inc, 2002.

16Preventing Unsafe Abortions.” WHO. 2016. Accessed: May 12, 2016.

17Riddle, John M. Contraception and Abortion from the Ancient World to the Renaissance. London, England: Harvard University Press, 1992.

18Schrad, Mark Lawrence. “Does Down Syndrome justify Abortion?The New York Times. September 4, 2015. Accessed: May 29, 2016.

19"United States Abortion.” Guttmacher Institute. 2016. Accessed May 29, 2016.

20Williams, Mary Elizabeth. “Siri, Find Me an Abortion Provider: Apple’s Weird Anti-Choice glitch is Finally on Its Way Out.” Salon. January 19, 2016. Accessed: May 29, 2016.

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