National Academies consensus report on abortions includes Emory faculty

April 4, 2018

A new consensus study report on “The Safety and Quality of Abortion Care in the United States,” from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, included two Emory faculty members in its 13-member report committee. Released March 16, the report was the first on the topic of abortion since 1975.

Carol J. Rowland Hogue, PhD, MPH, professor of epidemiology and Jules and Uldeen Terry Chair of Maternal and Child Health at Rollins School of Public Health, andRuth M. Parker, MD, professor of medicine at Emory School of Medicine, were part of the committee that developed the report.

With support from six private foundations, the committee examined the scientific evidence on the safety and quality of different abortion methods used in the United States and assessed quality of care based on whether it is safe, effective, patient-centered, timely, efficient, and equitable according to well-established standards. The report examined health facilities and types of clinicians as well as the potential physical and mental health impacts on women.

The report found that the abortion rate among U.S. women has been steadily declining, reaching a historic low of 14.6 per 1,000 or a total of 926,190 in 2014. This decline has been attributed to the increasing use of contraceptives, especially long-acting methods such as intrauterine devices and implants; historic declines in the rate of unintended pregnancy; and increasing numbers of state regulations that limit the availability of otherwise legal abortion services. Women who have abortions are disproportionately low-income; almost half have family incomes below the federal poverty level.

The report concluded that most abortions in the U.S. are performed early in pregnancy, with 90 percent in 2014 occurring in the first 12 weeks of gestation, and that the vast majority can be provided safely in office-based settings. Serious complications are rare regardless of the method, and safety and quality are enhanced when the abortion is performed as early in pregnancy as possible. The report found the likelihood that women will receive the type of abortion services that best meet their needs varies considerably, however, depending on where they live. Abortion-specific regulations in many states create barriers to safe and effective care.

Additional conclusions, with a link to the National Academies press release and the entire report is available at this link.