By Rose Hoban

Even as legislators introduce a new bill that could make obtaining an abortion more cumbersome, the data show the number of abortions in North Carolina has steadily declined over the past few years, along with the number of births.

In 2013, 118,983 pregnancies to North Carolina women were recorded by the N.C. State Center for Health Statistics; of those, at least 19,818 were terminated (2013 is the last year for which the center has released complete data).

The abortion rate is calculated by looking at the number of women of reproductive age and seeing how many of those women had abortions in a given year.

Demographers usually think about abortion rates in terms of the number of abortions per 1,000 women of reproductive age, generally considered to be 15 to 44 years old. While some females younger than 15 and older than 44 can and do get pregnant and could terminate that pregnancy, the numbers provided by the N.C. State Center for Health Statistics do not reflect those females’ pregnancies.

A note about this map:  Numbers shown in county data reflect total pregnancies as reported to the N.C. State Center for Health Statistics. However, more women become pregnant but those data were never reported because their pregnancies ended in early miscarriage.

One provision of the new bill introduced in April would be to compel doctors to document why they perform abortions after 20 weeks of gestational age.

As noted by Chapel Hill obstetrician Amy Bryant, few women have abortions after the 20-week mark and those are usually because of a fetal abnormality, such as lack of a brain, a severe neurological cord abnormality or a genetic disorder that will result in fetal death quite soon after birth.

“It has to do with the best time to see the anatomy of the fetus,” Bryant said. “You can’t see [abnormalities] optimally earlier in the pregnancy. So these problems often can’t be diagnosed until later.”

DHHS data show that in 2013, only 55 women in North Carolina have had documented abortions after 20 weeks gestation.

If you’d like to compare these numbers to prior years, we have a similar map that you can examine here:

Characteristics of NC Women Receiving Abortions

NC RESIDENT ABORTIONS: Characteristics of Women Receiving Abortions, NC Residents, 2013

TOTALS 19,818 100.0
North Carolina 19,285 97.3
Out of State     533  2.7
14 and under   52 0.3
15-19 2,084 10.5
20-24 6,181 31.2
25-29 4,832 24.4
30-34 3,131 15.8
35 and over 2,410 12.2
Unknown 1,128  5.7
White Non-Hispanic 7,316 36.9
Af. Am. Non-Hispanic 8,991 45.4
Other Non-Hispanic   656  3.3
Hispanic 2,055 10.4
Unknown   587  3.0
Married 3,575 18.0
Unmarried 14,990 75.6
Unknown 1,253  6.3
Not completed high school 2,356 11.9
High school graduate 5,992 30.2
Some college 8,997 45.4
Unknown 2,473 12.5
None 7,137 36.0
1 5,307 26.8
2 or more 3,902 19.7
Unknown   791  4.0
None 10,081 50.9
1 4,176 21.1
2 1,692  8.5
3 or more    847  4.3
Unknown 3,022 15.2
First trimester 0-12 weeks* 16,319 82.3
13-20 1,472  7.4
Greater than 20 weeks     55  0.3
Unknown 1,972 10.0
Any Surgical 13,646 68.7
Medical (nonsurgical) 5,061 25.5
Other/Unknown 1,111 5.6
*Fetus gender cannot be determined prior to 12 weeks of gestation.

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