Abortion Reporting: Iowa (2018)

Tessa Longbons  

Iowa’s abortion report for 2018 was published online by the Iowa Department of Public Health in December 2019. The report shows that abortions reported in Iowa reached a record low.


Changes in Iowa Abortions, 2017-2018

Information on Planned Parenthood’s Iowa market share is not publicly available.


Abortion Totals and Trends


In 2018, there were 2,849 abortions reported in Iowa, the lowest total reported in the Hawkeye State since 1999, Iowa’s earliest reporting year available online. Total abortions declined by 13 percent from the previous year (Fig. 1). Chemical abortions fell by a smaller margin, dropping seven percent between 2017 and 2018. Chemical abortions made up 68 percent of all Iowa abortions in 2018. The Charlotte Lozier Institute estimates that Iowa’s 2018 abortion rate was 4.8 abortions per 1,000 women ages 15 to 44, significantly lower than the national rate (Fig. 2).


State Report Summary


Eighty-nine percent of the abortions reported in Iowa in 2018 were performed on Iowa residents, and 11 percent were on women from other states. Ten percent of the abortions occurring in Iowa were performed on girls age 19 or younger. Fifty-six percent were on women in their twenties, with 29 percent on women ages 20 to 24 and just under 28 percent on women ages 25 to 29. Almost 20 percent of Iowa abortions were on women between the ages of 30 and 34, and 10 percent were on women ages 35 to 39, for a total of 29 percent performed on women in their thirties. Four percent of the abortions were on women who were age 40 or older.


White women made up the majority of women undergoing abortions in Iowa, accounting for 72 percent of the abortions reported in 2018. Eighteen percent of Iowa abortions were performed on African American women, despite the fact that African American women make up just five percent of Iowa’s population of women of childbearing age. Four percent were performed on Asian women, while not quite two percent were on women of another race and another two percent were on women of multiple races. Half a percent were performed on American Indian women, and just under one percent were on women of unknown race.


Seventeen percent of Iowa abortions were performed on married women, and 83 percent were on women who were unmarried. One percent of the women had completed eight years of education or fewer. Forty percent had between nine and 12 years of education, and 58 percent had completed at least some college. Level of education was unknown for one percent of the women undergoing abortions.


The vast majority of abortions performed in Iowa, 94 percent, occurred at 13 weeks of gestation or earlier. Six percent were performed between 14 and 28 weeks of gestation, and no abortions were reported after 28 weeks. Thirty-two percent were surgical abortions, and 68 percent were chemical abortions. The month of January had the fewest abortions (27) and June and August tied for the most (325).


Pregnancy Losses in Iowa


In addition to its induced abortion reporting requirements, Iowa requires doctors to report fetal deaths (natural pregnancy losses after 20 weeks of gestation) and spontaneous abortions (natural pregnancy losses from conception to 20 weeks of gestation).


The Iowa legislature enacted protections for pain-capable unborn babies in 2017, adding a requirement that doctors report the probable post-fertilization age at which induced abortions are performed. To help clarify the new requirements, the Iowa Department of Public Health published and disseminated reminders of what doctors are required to report for both spontaneous and induced abortions. As a result, the number of reported spontaneous abortions increased by 224 percent in 2018, with 1,409 spontaneous abortions reported that year. There were 144 fetal deaths reported to have occurred in Iowa in 2018. In all, including the 2,849 abortions, 4,402 babies were reported to have died before birth in Iowa in 2018, although the true number may have been even higher.


State Ranking


In 2016, CLI surveyed abortion reporting across the 50 states, New York City, and the District of Columbia. Iowa’s reports tied for 33rd best. Recently, Iowa has worked to ensure that providers are familiar with the state’s abortion reporting requirements. To improve its reporting further, Iowa could provide more specific information on the gestational ages at which abortions are performed, rather than its current system of combining several weeks into a wide range (i.e. before 13 weeks; 14-28 weeks; and 28 weeks onward).  It could also provide more information on the types of procedures used. Iowa could also report whether any abortions resulted in complications.


  1. Starting with the 2018 abortion reports, abortion rates are calculated by the Charlotte Lozier Institute to allow for easier state-to-state and year-to-year comparisons. Rates were calculated by CLI using population estimates from the United States Census Bureau. The rates were calculated using the following formula: (total number of abortions performed in Iowa ÷ number of resident women ages 15-44) x 1,000. Rates may differ slightly from previous CLI articles due to revised population estimates and abortion totals.

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