The real numbers behind abortions in the United States

How many abortions are actually performed? Numbers reveal the complexity in the raging debate.

The real numbers behind abortions in the United States
Getty Images.
  • The American society is close to split on the legality of abortions.
  • 45,789,558 abortions were carried out in the U.S. between 1970 and 2015.
  • The abortion numbers are at an all-time low now, trending almost half of what they were.

WHAT AMERICANS THINK ABOUT ABORTION

Abortion is an extremely divisive issue that splits the country close to down the middle. About 48% of Americans consider themselves "pro-choice," but the same number – 48% are "pro-life," found a May 2018 Gallup poll. The numbers of pro-choicers is higher, however, in a Pew Research Poll from October 2018 which counted 58% of Americans saying abortion should be almost always legal in contrast to 37% who thought abortion should in illegal in most cases.

The views continue to go in separate ways when you drill down further. With regards to first trimester abortions, 90% of pro-choice Americans support their legality in most cases, while 60% of pro-life voters think it should be illegal [Gallup].

In the political arena, the divide couldn't be more clear. 59% of Republicans think abortion should be mostly illegal, while 76% of Democrats say abortion should be legal in most cases, discovered the Pew Center poll. Notably, these positions have become hardened over time as in 1995, just 49% of Republicans supported keeping abortion legal and 64% of Democrats.

Where Americans do seem to agree is in cases where a woman's life is in danger, with 83% saying abortion should be legally allowed (including 71% of pro-lifers). In cases of rape and incest, 77% support abortion rights (96% of pro-choicers and 57% of pro-life Americans). [Gallup].

While Americans take complex positions on abortion, it should be pointed out that only 18% of all U.S. adults think it should be illegal in all circumstances. Most support some form of abortion being allowed.

WHAT ALABAMIANS THINK ABOUT ABORTION

In Alabama, the ground zero of the abortion debate due to a recently passed abortion ban, repeated polling has shown that most of the voters oppose abortion rights, women included. A 2014 Pew Research Center poll found 58% of residents saying abortion should be illegal in mostly all cases. 51% of the pro-life respondents were women. Other polling indicates similar patterns.

The New York Times reports that in 2017, the citizens of Alabama approved modifying the State Constitution to include the language that the state must "to recognize and support the sanctity of unborn life and the rights of unborn children, including the right to life."

Most Alabamians, however, do think the extreme abortion ban recently passed by their legislature goes too far. Only 31% supported having no rape/incest exception in a 2018 poll.

Americans generally agree on the legality of abortions in cases of a woman's life being endangered or those involving rape and incest.

Gallup.

HOW MANY ABORTIONS ARE PERFORMED

According to CDC stats, 638,169 abortions were performed in 2015. Compare that to the period from the late 70s till the late 90s when the number of abortions was regularly fluctuating between 1 - 1.4 million per year.

Taken as a whole, there were 45,789,558 abortions performed in the U.S. between 1970 and 2015.

Current abortion rates are actually at an all-time low, reported Vox. It declined by 26% from 2006 until 2015, according to the CDC. Improved access to contraceptives is likely the cause of that.

While lower, it is still a fairly widespread procedure, with about 23.7% of American women having an abortion before reaching 45, concluded Guttmacher Institute's 2017 research. Before 30, the percentage is 19%. Before 20 it's 4.6%.

In Alabama, the numbers went from 11,267 abortions in 2007 to 6,768 abortions in 2017.

This is what aliens would 'hear' if they flew by Earth

A Mercury-bound spacecraft's noisy flyby of our home planet.

Image source: sdecoret on Shutterstock/ESA/Big Think
Surprising Science
  • There is no sound in space, but if there was, this is what it might sound like passing by Earth.
  • A spacecraft bound for Mercury recorded data while swinging around our planet, and that data was converted into sound.
  • Yes, in space no one can hear you scream, but this is still some chill stuff.

First off, let's be clear what we mean by "hear" here. (Here, here!)

Sound, as we know it, requires air. What our ears capture is actually oscillating waves of fluctuating air pressure. Cilia, fibers in our ears, respond to these fluctuations by firing off corresponding clusters of tones at different pitches to our brains. This is what we perceive as sound.

All of which is to say, sound requires air, and space is notoriously void of that. So, in terms of human-perceivable sound, it's silent out there. Nonetheless, there can be cyclical events in space — such as oscillating values in streams of captured data — that can be mapped to pitches, and thus made audible.

BepiColombo

Image source: European Space Agency

The European Space Agency's BepiColombo spacecraft took off from Kourou, French Guyana on October 20, 2019, on its way to Mercury. To reduce its speed for the proper trajectory to Mercury, BepiColombo executed a "gravity-assist flyby," slinging itself around the Earth before leaving home. Over the course of its 34-minute flyby, its two data recorders captured five data sets that Italy's National Institute for Astrophysics (INAF) enhanced and converted into sound waves.

Into and out of Earth's shadow

In April, BepiColombo began its closest approach to Earth, ranging from 256,393 kilometers (159,315 miles) to 129,488 kilometers (80,460 miles) away. The audio above starts as BepiColombo begins to sneak into the Earth's shadow facing away from the sun.

The data was captured by BepiColombo's Italian Spring Accelerometer (ISA) instrument. Says Carmelo Magnafico of the ISA team, "When the spacecraft enters the shadow and the force of the Sun disappears, we can hear a slight vibration. The solar panels, previously flexed by the Sun, then find a new balance. Upon exiting the shadow, we can hear the effect again."

In addition to making for some cool sounds, the phenomenon allowed the ISA team to confirm just how sensitive their instrument is. "This is an extraordinary situation," says Carmelo. "Since we started the cruise, we have only been in direct sunshine, so we did not have the possibility to check effectively whether our instrument is measuring the variations of the force of the sunlight."

When the craft arrives at Mercury, the ISA will be tasked with studying the planets gravity.

Magentosphere melody

The second clip is derived from data captured by BepiColombo's MPO-MAG magnetometer, AKA MERMAG, as the craft traveled through Earth's magnetosphere, the area surrounding the planet that's determined by the its magnetic field.

BepiColombo eventually entered the hellish mangentosheath, the region battered by cosmic plasma from the sun before the craft passed into the relatively peaceful magentopause that marks the transition between the magnetosphere and Earth's own magnetic field.

MERMAG will map Mercury's magnetosphere, as well as the magnetic state of the planet's interior. As a secondary objective, it will assess the interaction of the solar wind, Mercury's magnetic field, and the planet, analyzing the dynamics of the magnetosphere and its interaction with Mercury.

Recording session over, BepiColombo is now slipping through space silently with its arrival at Mercury planned for 2025.

Learn the Netflix model of high-performing teams

Erin Meyer explains the keeper test and how it can make or break a team.

Videos
  • There are numerous strategies for building and maintaining a high-performing team, but unfortunately they are not plug-and-play. What works for some companies will not necessarily work for others. Erin Meyer, co-author of No Rules Rules: Netflix and the Culture of Reinvention, shares one alternative employed by one of the largest tech and media services companies in the world.
  • Instead of the 'Rank and Yank' method once used by GE, Meyer explains how Netflix managers use the 'keeper test' to determine if employees are crucial pieces of the larger team and are worth fighting to keep.
  • "An individual performance problem is a systemic problem that impacts the entire team," she says. This is a valuable lesson that could determine whether the team fails or whether an organization advances to the next level.
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Photo by Martin Adams on Unsplash
Culture & Religion
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