Racial disparity in years of potential life lost to induced abortions


The magnitude of the overall prevalence and racial disparity in induced abortion suggests that it is a major influence on the demographic and socioeconomic composition of the population of the United States (US). However, the years of potential lives averted by induced abortion have not been systematically studied. We applied race-specific intra-uterine death estimates to the induced abortions occurring to non-Hispanic (NH) white and non-Hispanic (NH) black women in the US state of North Carolina in 2008. The resultant estimate of births averted by induced abortion was used to project years of potential life lost. All-cause detailed mortality data were used to compare induced abortion with other contributing causes of years of potential life lost before age 75 (YPLL 75). For NH whites, induced abortions in 2008 contributed 59% of total YPLL 75, and 1.5 times the total YPLL 75 from all other causes combined. For NH blacks, induced abortions in 2008 contributed 76% of total YPLL 75 and 3.2 times the total YPLL 75 from all other causes combined. Induced abortion is the overwhelmingly predominant contributing cause of preventable potential lives lost in the North Carolina population, and NH blacks are disproportionately affected.

Share and Cite:

Studnicki, J. , MacKinnon, S. and Fisher, J. (2014) Racial disparity in years of potential life lost to induced abortions. Open Journal of Preventive Medicine, 4, 8-12. doi: 10.4236/ojpm.2014.41002.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


[1] [1] Ventura, S.J., Mosher, W.D., Curtin, S.C., Abma, J.C. and Henshaw, S. (2000) Trends in pregnancies and pregnancy rates by outcome: Estimates for the United States, National Center for Health Statistics. Vital and Health Statistics, Series 21, 56, 1976-1996.
[2] Ventura, S.J., Abma, J.C., Mosher, W.D. and Henshaw, S.K. (2009) Estimated pregnancy rates for the United States, 1990-2005: An update. National Vital Statistics Reports, 58, 1-14.
[3] Ventura, S.J., Curtin, S.C, Abma, J.C. and Henshaw, S.K. (2012) Estimated pregnancy rates and rates of pregnancy outcomes for the United States, 1990-2008. National Vital Statistics Reports, 60, 1-21.
[4] Gardner, J.W. and Sanborn, J.S. (1990) Years of potential life lost (YPLL)—What does it measure? Epidemiology, 1, 322-329.
[5] McDonnell, S., Vossberg, K., Hopkins, R.S. and Mittan, B. (1998) Using YPLL in health planning. Public Health Reports, 113, 55-61.
[6] Peppard, P.E., Kindig, D., Riemer, A., Dranger, E. and Remington, P.L. (2003) Wisconsin county health rankings, 2003. Wisconsin Public Health Policy Institute, Madison.
[7] United Heath Foundation. (2013) America’s health: United Health Foundation state health rankings 2012 Edition.
[8] Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD). (2013) Potential years of life lost.
[9] CDC, National Center for Health Statistics (1988) Trends in years of potential life Lost due to infant mortality and perinatal conditions, 1980-1983 and 1984-1985. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR), 37, 249-256.
[10] Kelley, M. (2011) Counting stillbirths: Women’s health and reproductive rights. Comment. Lancet, 377, 249-256.
[11] Kliman, H.J., McSweet, J.C. and Levin, Y.A. (2005) Fetal death: Etiology and pathological findings. Up To Date.
[12] Kost, K. and Henshaw, S. (2012) US teenage pregnancies, births, and abortions, 2008: National trends by age, race and ethnicity. The Guttmacher Institute, New York.
[13] Miller, J.F., Williamson, E., Glue, J., Gordon, Y.B., Grudzinskas, J.G. and Sykes, A. (1980) Fetal loss after implantation: A prospective study. Lancet, 2, 554-556.
[14] Wang X, Chen C, Wang L, et al. (2003) Conception, early pregnancy loss, and time to clinical pregnancy: A population based prospective study. Fertility and Sterility, 79, 577-584. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S0015-0282(02)04694-0
[15] Zinaman, M.D., Clegg, E.D., Brown, C.C., O’Connor, J. and Selevan, S.G. (1996) Estimates of human fertility and pregnancy loss. Fertility and Sterility, 65, 503-509.
[16] Wilcox, A.J., Treloar, A.E. and Sandler, D.P. (1981) Spontaneous abortion over time: Comparing occurrence in two cohorts of women a generation apart. American Journal of Epidemiology, 114, 548-553.
[17] National Center for Health Statistics, CDC. (2013) User guide to the 2008 natality public use file.
[18] Martin, J.A., Hamilton, B.E., Sutton, P.D., Ventura, S.J., Mathews, T.J. and Osterman, M.J. (2010). Births: Final data for 2008. National Vital Statistics Reports, 59, 3-71.
[19] Pazol, K., Zane, S.B., Parker, W.Y., Hall, L.R., Berg, C. and Cook, D.A. (2011) Abortion surveillance—United States, 2008. MMWR Surveillance Summaries, 60, 1-41.
[20] Jones, R.K. and Kooistra, K. (2011) Abortion incidence and access to services in the United States, 2008. Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health, 43, 41-50.
[21] Giubilini, A. and Minerva, F. (2012) After-birth abortion: Why should the baby live? Journal of Medical Ethics, 39, 261-263.
[22] Hammerslough, C.R. (1992) Estimating the probability of spontaneous abortion in the presence of induced abortion and vice versa. Public Health Reports, 107, 269-277.
[23] Covert, B. (2013) How denying woman access to reproductive choices costs taxpayers.
[24] Weisbord, R.G. (1973) Birth control and the Black American: A matter of genocide? Demography, 10, 571-590.
[25] Kochanek, K.D., Arias, E. and Anderson, R.N (2013) How did cause of death contribute to racial differences in life expectancy in the United States in 2010? NCHS Data Brief, 125, 1-8.

Copyright © 2022 by authors and Scientific Research Publishing Inc.

Creative Commons License

This work and the related PDF file are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.