Abortion statistics call upon us to live works of mercy

Under Nebraska state law, every abortion performed in our state must be reported by the attending abortionist through a reporting form to the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services (“DHHS”). This report includes a variety of information. DHHS compiles this information and issues an annual report. These annual reports date back to 1974.
In April, DHHS issued its “2017 Statistical Report of Abortions” (full reports accessible at While it is sobering to read, the annual report offers an opportunity to better understand the scope of abortion in Nebraska, which informs our outreach and prayer efforts. This article summarizes some of the categories of information provided in the report.
Total number of abortions. Tragically, 1,958 babies were killed by induced abortions in 2017. This number represents a 2.6 percent increase compared to the 2016 total of 1,907. It represents about a 70 percent decrease compared to the 1990 total of 6,346, which represents the high-water mark for abortions in Nebraska. Unfortunately, this is the first year since 2007 that the number of abortions has increased.
Notably, the DHHS abortion statistics do not capture other abortions we know are occurring through over-the-counter abortion pills and abortifacient contraceptives (for example, Plan B, Ella, Depo-Provera).
Mother’s age. The modal age – the age at which most abortions occurred – was 22, though the number of abortions for mothers between ages 21 and 25 are very close in range. Young women between 20 and 29 accounted for nearly 60 percent (1,148) of abortions, while 32 percent (624) of abortions occurred with women over the age of 30. Teenage girls accounted for just under 10 percent of abortions. Six girls under age 15 had abortions, the report said.
Mother’s marital status. Seventy-eight percent (1,532) of abortions were procured by women who have never been married, while 14.5 percent (283) of abortions were procured by women who were married at the time of the abortion.
Mother’s race and ancestry. White women accounted for approximately 70 percent (1,365) of abortions, whereas 16.5 percent (324) of abortions were procured by black/African-American women. Hispanic women were listed at 13.7 percent (269) of abortions. 
First-time and repeat abortions. Most abortions were first-time abortions, totaling 66.5 percent (1,302) of the total. Around 25 percent (464) were second-time abortions, and about 10 percent (124) of abortions were performed on women who had three or more previous abortions.
Live births before abortion. Nearly 60 percent (1,162) of women who obtained an abortion had already given birth to a child, whereas 40 percent (796) of women never had a child before.
Reasons for abortions. These varied, but the top three reasons were no contraception used (53 percent – 1,032), contraceptive failure (10 percent – 206), and socioeconomics (4 percent – 182). In 29 percent of abortions, the mother declined to provide a reason. The remaining abortions occurred because of maternal physical health (51), mental health (34), fetal anomaly (16), sexual assault (17), maternal life endangered (14) and incest (2). 
Abortion procedures used. Two abortion methods account for nearly all abortions. The most common method was medication induced (i.e., chemical) abortions, which resulted in 55.5 percent (1,086) of abortions. A decade ago, chemical abortion amounted to less than 2 percent (43) of abortions.
In 2010 medication-induced abortions gained prominence at 30 percent (746) of abortions. Notably, 2015 marked the first year that medication-induced abortions were the most common abortion method, while 2016 marked the first year that medication-induced abortion was the majority method utilized. The suction curettage method accounted for 42 percent (817) of abortions. The remaining abortions (55) were mostly by dismemberment (dilation and evacuation or D&E) and partial-birth abortion (dilation and extraction or D&X). 
Gestational age of unborn child. Nearly all abortions occurred within the first 12 weeks (or first trimester) of pregnancy, totaling 1,823 (93 percent) abortions. Within this period, most abortions (1,238) occurred during the fourth through eighth weeks of pregnancy.
While the annual report provides raw data, we must live the works of mercy by reaching out to post-abortive women and extending the love of Christ and his church. We know that abortion hurts women (and men) physically, emotionally, psychologically and spiritually.
As we reflect and mourn, pray for healing. Continue to promote the work of healing ministries such as Project Rachel (888-456-HOPE) and Rachel’s Vineyard. We commend all this work to the Most Sacred and Merciful Heart of Jesus!
Tom Venzor is executive director of the Nebraska Catholic Conference, with headquarters in Lincoln. Contact him at
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