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Who gets abortions in Pennsylvania, according to the data

The latest data show the typical person who gets an abortion in Pennsylvania is in their 20s, unmarried, and in the first two months of pregnancy.

Protesters in support of abortion rights gather outside of the federal courthouse in Philadelphia on Tuesday.
Protesters in support of abortion rights gather outside of the federal courthouse in Philadelphia on Tuesday.Read moreHEATHER KHALIFA / Staff Photographer

In their 20s. Unmarried. And in the first two months of pregnancy.

That’s the typical person who gets an abortion in Pennsylvania.

The U.S. Supreme Court appears poised to overturn Roe v. Wade, a decision that would leave abortion access to the states. If the court does reverse the landmark 1973 ruling, abortion would still be legal in Pennsylvania until 24 weeks of pregnancy — but there’s no guarantee it would stay that way. Pennsylvania has neither codified a right to abortion into law nor banned it, and the Republican candidates for governor stand united in limiting abortion access.

That would affect tens of thousands of people a year: More than 32,000 people got legally induced abortions in 2020, according to data from the Pennsylvania Department of Health. State law requires medical providers to report details on abortion services they provide, and Pennsylvania has collected data on legally induced abortions since 1975. The most recent data are from 2020 during the pandemic, but the number of abortions in 2019 — just over 31,000 — isn’t markedly different.

The abortion rate in Pennsylvania has halved since the 1980s.

Here’s what the latest data tell us about who gets abortions in Pennsylvania:

Most Pennsylvania abortions were sought by people in their 20s

Abortions are much less common among teenagers today than they were 25 years ago. Teens made up less than 8% of all abortions in 2020. That’s one-third of the rate in 1985, when teens made up more than one in four abortions in Pennsylvania.

Most people who get abortions today are between the ages of 20 to 29, followed by people in their 30s.

Black and white people got nearly the same number of abortions. That means Black people were much more likely to get one.

About 46% of abortions in the state were sought out by white people, followed closely by Black people at 44%.

But white people make up a much greater share of the population than Black people. On a per-capita basis, Black people were almost seven times as likely as white people to seek out abortions.

Hispanic people made up about one in ten abortions.

The state data separate Hispanic and Latino ethnicity from race. Hispanic people of any race represented close to 11% of Pennsylvania abortions in 2020.

Almost all Pennsylvania abortions were during the first trimester

The Supreme Court’s decision in Roe v. Wade protected abortions until fetal viability, or about 23 weeks.

The case currently before the court concerns a Mississippi law that would ban abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy. Chief Justice John Roberts seemed interested in keeping some abortion protections in place until that 15-week mark in oral arguments last December.

“If you think that the issue is one of choice, that women should have a choice to terminate their pregnancy, that supposes that there is a point at which they’ve had the fair choice, opportunity to choice, and why would 15 weeks be an inappropriate line?” Roberts asked. “If it really is an issue about choice, why is 15 weeks not enough time?”

The vast majority of abortions in Pennsylvania took place within the first two months of pregnancy.

Less than 7% of abortions occurred after 15 weeks.

Pennsylvania abortions are performed in just 14 counties

Philadelphia had the most abortions in Pennsylvania. Just eight counties account for 90% of all abortions performed in the state.

More than one in three legal abortions in Pennsylvania were for Philly residents

Philadelphia doesn’t just lead the state in the number of abortions performed. It’s also the top county when it comes to residents seeking abortions. City residents account for 38% of all Pennsylvania abortions, and on a per-capita basis Philadelphia residents are far more likely to get abortions than Pennsylvanians in other counties.

Sixteen counties — more than one in five — saw decreases in abortions among their residents between 2019 and 2020, even though the statewide number increased.

Most Pennsylvania abortions were sought by unmarried people

About 88% of people seeking abortions in Pennsylvania were unmarried.

Half of all Pennsylvania abortions use medication, not surgery

Given that the majority of abortions happen in the first months of pregnancy, many recipients are eligible for medical abortion, also known as medication abortion. The use of medication instead of surgery to stop pregnancy has become more prevalent due to its accessibility.

Medical abortions became more used than surgical abortions in 2020.

Almost all Pennsylvania abortions were for state residents

The vast majority of people who get abortions in Pennsylvania live in the state. Just under 7% of abortions performed in 2020 were for out-of-state residents, mostly from neighboring Delaware, Ohio, and New Jersey.

Fewer than 100 abortion seekers over the course of 2020 were from farther afield.

About the data
Data are from the Pennsylvania Department of Health’s annual abortion statistics report. State law requires abortion providers to report details about abortions they provide, including demographic information about patients, to the state.

This article uses the 2020 report, the latest available, which was released in December 2021. The numbers cover legal abortions performed in the state and do not include illegal abortions or Pennsylvania residents who received abortions outside the state.

Abortion rates are normalized by the total population.