For the second year in a row, abortions have been the leading cause of death worldwide, with more than three times as many people losing their lives to abortion than the second leading cause of death.
Worldometer, a database that keeps track of statistics on health, the global population and other metrics in real time, determines the number of abortions performed worldwide based on data obtained from the World Health Organization. The last available snapshot of the Worldometer, as it appeared on New Year’s Eve, captured by the internet archive tool The Wayback Machine, revealed that approximately 42.6 million abortions were performed worldwide in 2021.
By contrast, only 13 million people perished of communicable diseases, the second-leading cause of death last year. The other leading causes of death paled in comparison to abortion, with 8.2 million people dying of cancer worldwide, nearly 5 million deaths caused by smoking, approximately 2.5 million alcohol-related deaths, nearly 1.7 million people succumbing to HIV/AIDS, more than 1.3 million people dying in traffic accidents, and nearly 1.1 million suicides worldwide.
Additionally, water-related diseases caused approximately 850,000 deaths, the seasonal flu killed nearly half a million people, nearly 400,000 perished because of malaria, and over 300,000 mothers lost their lives during childbirth last year. A separate set of coronavirus statistics also compiled by Worldometer revealed that 3,524,139 people died with complications from COVID-19 in 2021.
Approximately 58.7 million people died in 2021. That figure does not include those who died from abortion. If abortion as a cause of death was included, the number of deaths last year would have surpassed 100 million.
2021 is not the first year that abortions were the leading cause of death worldwide. Data from the Worldometer obtained by the Wayback Machine on New Year’s Eve 2020 revealed that more than 42.6 million abortions were performed that year. Once again, the number of abortions was three times the number of people who died of communicable diseases.
In addition to its status as the leading cause of death globally, abortion is also the leading cause of death in the United States. The Guttmacher Institute, an abortion advocacy group, reported that 862,320 abortions were performed in the U.S. in 2017.
That same year, data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that the leading cause of death in the U.S. besides abortion, heart disease, took the lives of 647,457 people. The total number of deaths in the U.S. in 2017, not including abortions, was 2,813,503. Including abortions increases the number of deaths to nearly 3.7 million.
In 2019, the CDC reported that 625,346 abortions were carried out in the U.S. However, that statistic only includes data from 47 of the 50 states and New York City. Additionally, the number of abortions reported did not include data from California, the nation’s most populous state.
The latest data about abortion comes as the issue has emerged front and center in American politics because of the U.S. Supreme Court’s upcoming ruling in the case of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health.
In the Dobbs case, the justices will decide whether Mississippi’s 15-week abortion ban violates the U.S. Constitution. A ruling in favor of the state of Mississippi, which is seeking to uphold the ban, would significantly weaken the precedent set by Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision determining that women have the right to an abortion.
In addition to the new developments surrounding the ongoing litigation over the Mississippi law, as well as a Texas law that bans abortions after a baby’s heartbeat can be detected, usually at around six weeks gestation, a multitude of pro-life laws passed at the state level in 2021.
The Guttmacher Institute published multiple reports expressing concern about the pro-life trend across the states, concluding with a year-end report describing 2021 as “the worst year for abortion rights in almost half a century.”