Abortion Reporting: Colorado (2020)

Tessa Longbons  

After this summary was published, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment identified and removed duplicate records from its 2020 data. The revised 2020 total is 9,869 abortions.


Colorado was one of the first states to release a report with 2020 abortion data. As of December 2021, 23 states have released abortion reports for 2020, of which 16 have reported that abortions increased from the previous year.


Changes in Colorado Abortions, 2019-2020

The abortion report does not include information on Planned Parenthood’s Colorado abortion market share.


Abortion Totals and Trends


There were 10,368 abortions reported in Colorado in 2020, an increase of more than 15 percent from the previous year (Fig. 1). The increase was driven by chemical abortions: chemical abortions jumped by 38 percent, making up 66 percent of the total in 2020. CLI estimates that Colorado’s state abortion rate also rose by 15 percent to 8.8 abortions per 1,000 women ages 15-44 (Fig. 2). As of December 2021, 23 states had released 2020 abortion statistics, with 16 states reporting that abortions increased from the previous year.


State Report Summary


In 2020, 87 percent of Colorado abortions were performed on state residents, while 13 percent were performed on nonresident women, up from 11 percent in 2019. Ten percent of the abortions were performed on girls ages 19 and younger, including three percent on girls under the age of 18. Twenty-nine percent were performed on women in their early twenties, and 28 percent were on women in their later twenties. Thirty percent were obtained by women in their thirties, and four percent were performed on women who were 40 years old or older.


Over half the abortions (54 percent) were reported to be performed on non-Hispanic white women, while two percent were on white Hispanic women. Nine percent of the abortions were on black women, and four percent were on women of a different race. However, race was not identified for over 30 percent of the abortions reported in Colorado.


Seventy-six percent of the abortions were performed on unmarried women, and 17 percent were on married women. Marital status was not reported for eight percent of the abortions. More than two-thirds of the abortions (69 percent) were performed on women with no previous abortions; 21 percent were on women with one prior abortion, and 10 percent were on women with two or more previous abortions. Over half the abortions (57 percent) were on women with no living children. Eighteen percent had one child, and a quarter had more than one.


Chemical abortions rose significantly in 2020, composing 66 percent of the abortions reported in Colorado, up from 55 percent the previous year. Over the same time period, suction curettage procedures dropped from 34 percent of the total to 25 percent. Two percent of the abortions were performed via dilation and evacuation, and 39 abortions were performed using sharp curettage. The numbers of intrauterine instillation and hysterectomy or hysterotomy abortions were suppressed, while the type of procedure was not reported for four percent of the abortions. The vast majority of Colorado abortions (99 percent) occurred in clinics or doctor’s offices, and one percent were performed in hospitals.


Three-quarters of the abortions performed in Colorado (75 percent) occurred at eight weeks of gestation or earlier. Twelve percent were performed between nine and 10 weeks of gestation, and four percent were performed between 11 and 12 weeks. Three percent each were performed between 13 and 15 and between 16 and 20 weeks of gestation. There were 258 abortions performed at 21 weeks of gestation or later (2.5 percent).


Late-Term Abortion


Colorado’s report includes the ranges of gestational ages of abortions performed after 21 weeks. In 2020, there were 35 abortions performed at 21 weeks of gestation, and 217 abortions were performed between 22 and 24 weeks. The number of abortions performed between 25 and 27 weeks was suppressed, but six abortions were performed at 28 weeks of gestation or later.


As CLI explained in a previous article, in 2020, Colorado voters considered a ballot initiative that would have limited abortion at or after 22 weeks of gestation. Unfortunately, the ballot initiative failed to pass, and Colorado still has no limits on how late in pregnancy an abortion may be performed. Over the five-year period 2016-2020, at least 1,162 abortions after 22 weeks were performed in Colorado; probably many of these were performed at Boulder Abortion Clinic, which is operated by prolific late-term abortion provider Dr. Warren Hern.


State Ranking


In CLI’s 2016 overview of state abortion reporting, Colorado’s reports were ranked at 35th best. Colorado has already made many improvements, including publishing its reports online, releasing them quickly, and reporting late-term gestational ages with more precision, as CLI has recommended. Colorado could ensure that all abortions performed in the state are reported; the Guttmacher Institute’s 2017 Colorado estimate was 40 percent higher than the official 2017 state total, but because the estimate is several years old, it is unclear to what extent Colorado abortions are still underreported. Additionally, Colorado could require health care providers, including emergency rooms, to report abortion-related complications they treat.

  1. Rates were calculated by CLI using the following formula: (total number of abortions performed in Colorado ÷ number of resident women ages 15-44) x 1,000. Rates may differ slightly from previous CLI articles due to revised population estimates. Population estimates were obtained from the CDC WONDER database.


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