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Fam Plann Perspect. 1998 May-Jun;30(3):128-33, 138.

Measuring the extent of abortion underreporting in the 1995 National Survey of Family Growth.

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  • 1Alan Guttmacher Institute, New York, USA.



Induced abortions are often severely underreported in national surveys, hampering the estimation and analysis of unintended pregnancies. To improve the level of abortion reporting, the 1995 National Survey of Family Growth (NSFG) incorporated new interview and self-report procedures, as well as a monetary incentive to respondents.


The weighted numbers of abortions reported in the main interview of the 1995 NSFG (Cycle 5), in the self-report and in the two procedures combined are compared with abortion estimates from The Alan Guttmacher Institute. The Cycle 5 estimates are also compared with estimates from previous cycles of the NSFG.


The self-report produces better reporting than the main interview, but combining data from the two procedures yields the highest count of abortions. For the period 1991-1994, the level of reporting is 45% in the main interview, 52% in the self-report and 59% when the two methods are combined. The level of abortion reporting in the combined data ranges from 40% for women with an income less than the federal poverty level to more than 75% among women who were older than 35, those who were married at the time of their abortion and those with an income above 200% of the poverty level. The completeness of abortion reporting in the main interview of Cycle 5, though indicating a remarkable improvement over reporting in Cycle 4, is comparable to the levels in Cycles 2 and 3.


The usefulness of the NSFG remains extremely limited for analyses involving unintended pregnancy and abortion.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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