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US abortions are on the rise after a long decline, although officials are cautious about this upward move because a government report released Wednesday is incomplete.

National abortion figures in 2017 fell to their lowest level since a 1973 US Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion.


But over the next two years, there was a slight increase in abortion rates and numbers, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported.

They grew 1% in 2018. The following year, the number increased by 2% and the rate per 1,000 women of child-bearing age by 1%.

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The CDC report represents the latest available data on US abortion. But it should be interpreted with caution because it is based on voluntary reporting and is not comprehensive, say experts.

Within its limits: It excludes abortions from three states—including California, the nation’s most populous state. Other states may have significant undercounts.

Those omissions mean that up to 30% of the nation’s abortions may not be captured in CDC data, according to officials from the Guttmacher Institute, a New York-based nonprofit research organization that supports abortion rights. The group conducts a more comprehensive survey of all US abortion providers every three years, and its next report is due out next year.

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Despite the limitations of the CDC report, it has generally painted a similar overall picture to that of the Guttmacher report, said lead researcher on that project, Rachel Jones.

“Historically, the trends have been similar,” Jones said.

American births have been on the decline for more than a decade, meaning both births and abortions have been falling for years.

The idea that abortion has been on the rise lately may be surprising, especially given recent efforts in several states to prohibit abortion.

“If it means accessing care to more people when they need it, that’s a positive development,” Jones said.

WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 01: Pro-Choice and anti-abortion protesters rally outside the US Supreme Court on November 1, 2021 in Washington, DC.  The Supreme Court is hearing arguments on Monday challenging the controversial Texas abortion law, which bans abortions after 6 weeks.  (Photo by Drew Anger/Getty Images)

The increase may be related to access and use of birth control, and it may also be linked to whether more people are having sex, she said.

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In all, about 630,000 abortions were reported to the CDC in 2019. The abortion rate was 11.4 abortions per 1,000 women aged 15–44 years. That year, 56% of reported abortions were surgical and about 44% were through the use of the so-called abortion pill.

Abortion rights supporters protest at the Louisiana Capitol, where lawmakers are considering a bill that would ban abortions at six weeks' gestation, Tuesday, May 21, 2019, in Baton Rouge, LA.  The bill is nearing final legislative passage.  (AP Photo/Melinda Deslet)

The report also showed that about 18% of all pregnancies in the US ended in miscarriage.

Jones said it’s hard to make general statements about American abortion trends, because there can be dramatic differences from state to state. And if women are traveling there from other states then the number in one state can increase.

It is not yet clear what abortion trends will look like for 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic. Some states, including Indiana, Iowa and Kansas, have reported increases. But it is possible that abortions may have decreased in many places during the lockdown, Jones said.

“What happened in 2020 was not just a matter of a long-term trend. It was also affected by COVID,” she said.