Parents ought to have a choice, Rev. Michel J. Faulkner, the pastor of New Horizon Church in Harlem — and a former New York Jet — argued on the steps of City Hall Monday. That is the message of the newly established NYC Parents’ Choice Coalition, of which Faulkner, also involved with the New York Metropolitan Clergy for Better Choices, is a member.
The choice to which he is rallying Big Apple parents is preserving the innocence of New York City schoolchildren, a cause close to the heart of Greg Pfundstein, another Coalition leader and executive director of the Chiaroscuro Foundation.
That choice, by the way, is endorsed by the American College of Pediatricians.
“We are pleased that Mayor Bloomberg is responding to the city’s double-the-national-average rate of abortion and high out-of-wedlock birth rate, but we do not believe that sex education in a city as diverse as New York can be one-size-fits-all,” Pfundstein has said. “The NYC Parents’ Choice Coalition is respectfully asking the City to offer a proven, alternative, abstinence-based program for the hundreds of thousands of students coming to school from families who would prefer a more traditional education. This is not an extraordinary request: Abstinence-based sex education is being successfully taught in cities across America.”
How bad is that abortion rate? Is abstinence a remotely realistic solution? Is Bloomberg the responsible party here? A) Try high enough for 64 percent of those polled to be outraged. B) Tried, tested, and parent-approved — a sensible alternative to the muddled mess New York is mandating for public-school children (read the extensive report, courtesy of the World Youth Alliance, on teachers’ current options here). C) Currently he is responsible for a bad mandate. He can be a morally responsible steward of his office — if he listens to these Choicers. Pfundstein talks to National Review Online’s Kathryn Jean Lopez about some of these issues that affect the very health and soul of New York and our national culture, never mind our lives.
KATHRYN JEAN LOPEZ: You got the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) to break down 2009 abortion statistics by ZIP code. Why is that information so important?
GREG PFUNDSTEIN: Many people were shocked to discover how high the abortion ratio is in the city when we publicized those data last January, and quite a few have responded to our call to community-level action. The problem with city-wide and even borough-wide data is that they abstract too much from the places where people live their lives: in their homes, in their communities, in their neighborhoods. Our hope is that people will look at what is going on in their own ZIP codes and think in terms of what they can do to help in their neighborhood. That is a much more manageable proposition than advocating for city-wide action. Ed Mechmann at the Archdiocese of New York wrote a great blog post recently on how surprised he was to find out how high the abortion ratio is in his Bronx neighborhood. We hope many others will have a similar response and begin to ask what they can do.
LOPEZ: So how can the pro-life movement make use of it? How are you making use of it?
PFUNDSTEIN: I think there are two primary uses for the data. The first is to encourage and direct community action to where it is most needed: There is a church in the Jamaica area of Queens that is working to start a ministry for the support of women in crisis pregnancies, and these data confirm the need for their efforts and will, we hope, encourage more people to get involved. We hope the data will encourage that kind of action all over the city.
We also hope the data will be useful in leading to a better understanding of what makes the abortion rate so high, not just in New York but in many other metropolitan areas. Some of it is not very surprising: Low marriage rates and high out-of-wedlock birth rates seem to track the abortion rates fairly closely. But it would be fascinating to know whether the locations of abortion clinics have any statistically significant effect on the abortion rate, or whether the number of condoms distributed correlates either positively or negatively. If there are insights to be had about how to bring down the abortion rate, we think tracking this kind of granular data over time gives us the best shot of having them.
And this is why we are not satisfied yet. We are still waiting on the last ten years’ worth of ZIP-code data from the city, and we are still pressing for the more timely release of such data going forward. Keep in mind we are still looking at 2009 data. New York City has the best abortion data in the country, but that’s no excuse for not making it better. One city official told me that she didn’t think they would make the ZIP-code data part of their regular release in the future, because it would endanger the abortionists. Given that the data tell us where the women live and not where the abortion took place, that doesn’t seem like a valid concern to me. We hope the city will provide these data going forward.