Unexpectedly Intriguing!
January 18, 2012

Stopwatch - Source: CDC.gov How many abortion procedures do the highest volume abortion providers perform every day?

Having previously determined the number of abortions performed by the various types of abortion providers in the United States, we're digging deeper into the Guttmacher Institute's report on Abortion Incidence and Access to Services in the United States, 2008 to do some basic math to find out the typical throughput for the various types of abortion providers.

"Throughput" is a term that comes from high volume manufacturing operations, which refers to the amount of material that is processed within a given amount of time, or in the case of computers, the number of operations that are performed within a set time interval.

The question arises because of the great differences we observed in the annual caseloads for the various types of abortion providers. Our first chart below shows the percentage distribution for the 1,793 abortion providers counted in 2008 with the number of abortions procedures performed by each:

Number of Abortion Providers and Number of Abortions by Provider Type, 2008

As you can see, nearly 70% of all abortions are performed in just 378 abortion clinics, while another 24% are performed in 473 "other" clinics. A balance of just under 6% of the total are split between 942 hospitals and physicians' offices.

But the Guttmacher Institute's researchers went a step future and also determined the number of abortions provided by each type of abortion provider according their annual caseload - the number of abortions performed by each in 2008.

We decided to drill down into the data for abortions performed in dedicated abortion clinics and other clinics, since these two types of abortion providers account for just over 94% of all abortions performed in the United States.

Our next chart shows what we found when we looked at abortions performed in the 378 dedicated abortion clinics in the United States:

Number of Abortion Providers and Number of Abortions at Abortion Clinics by Annual Caseload, 2008

Our next chart repeats the same exercise for the "other" clinics. One immediate difference between the two providers is that no clinics that are counted among the 378 dedicated abortion clinics performed fewer than 30 abortions in 2008.

Number of Abortion Providers and Number of Abortions at Other Clinics by Annual Caseload, 2008

We next determined the following average throughput values by assuming a seven-day per week operating schedule, which might be common for these high-volume abortion providers.

  • An annual caseload of 30 represents 0.08 abortions per day, or roughly one abortion approximately every 12 days.
  • An annual caseload of 400 represents 1.1 abortions per day, or 11 abortions every 10 days).
  • An annual caseload of 1,000 represents roughly 2.7 abortions per day.
  • An annual caseload of 5,000 represents 13.7 abortions per day.

For the 29 abortion clinics with an annual caseload over 5,000 abortion procedures per year, which performed 188,320 abortion procedures in 2008, the average daily throughput works out to be approximately 17.8 abortions per day.

But for the two "other" clinics that weren't counted among the specialized abortion clinics, but still had an annual caseload exceeding 5,000 abortion procedures per year, the average throughput is approximately 25 per day.

For a standard 8-hour work day, that last throughput value equates to 3.1 per hour.

To put that value into perspective, since most of these procedures represent surgical abortions, if there were only one doctor performing these procedures at these clinics, they would rank among the fastest in the world.

Notes About the Various Types of Abortion Providers

The Guttmacher Institute provides the following description of each type of abortion provider:

Types of Providers and Abortion Caseloads

Clinics. The 378 specialized abortion clinics accounted for 21% of all abortion providers, but performed 70% of all abortions in 2008 (Table 4). Most of these facilities reported 1,000 or more abortions during the year. A total of 473 nonspecialized clinics accounted for 24% of all abortions; some were similar to abortion clinics in having caseloads of 1,000 or more abortions per year. Overall, the number of very large providers (those performing 5,000 or more procedures) increased by more than 50% between surveys: Twenty facilities of this size accounted for 12% of all abortions in 20051, whereas 31 such facilities provided 17% of abortions in 2008.

Hospitals. Thirty-four percent of abortion providers were hospitals in 2008, but these facilities accounted for only 4% of all abortions. Many hospitals provide abortions only in cases of fetal anomaly or serious risk to the woman’s health, and a majority (65%) performed fewer than 30 abortions in 2008. Twenty-two hospitals reported 400–999 abortions during the year, and only nine reported 1,000 or more.

Physicians’ offices. Some 19% of providers were physicians’ offices, but these facilities accounted for only 1% of all abortions. A majority of these offices (57%) reported fewer than 30 abortions; our survey may have missed a number of small providers in this category.


Jones, Rachel K. and Kooistra, Kathryn. Guttmacher Institute. Abortion Incidence and Access to Services in the United States, 2008. Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health. Volume 43, Issue 1. 10 January 2011.


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