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Exposing the Statistical Reality of Abortion in New York City



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The Chiaroscuro Foundation press conference that Kathryn wrote about Friday, calling attention to the high incidence of abortion in New York City, has received considerable coverage from the New York Times and other media outlets. Abortions, unlike births, tend to be private events. As such, many outside the pro-life movement vastly underestimate the percentage of pregnancies that result in an abortion.

Furthermore, abortion statistics, whether they be national or local, typically receive little coverage from the mainstream media. Every year the annual abortion statistics released by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) receive little fanfare and less notice. Even worse, weak reporting requirements result in several states not releasing statistics to the CDC, making year-to-year comparisons difficult. 

The Chiaroscuro Foundation was wise in the way it presented its statistics. The CDC uses the ratio of abortions to thousand live births — a metric that can be difficult to grasp. But the percentages used by the Chiaroscuro Foundation were easy to understand. Indeed, there was considerable surprise and concern that 41 percent of all pregnancies in New York City end in abortion.

It should be noted that, in the recent abortion statistics released by the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, there was some good news. The number of abortions performed in New York City has fallen consistently during the past decade. The abortion rate is falling the fastest among teenagers. Furthermore, it appears the current economic slowdown has done relatively little to increase the incidence of abortion in New York.

However, the fact remains that New York City has among the highest abortion rates in the country. The Chiaroscuro Foundation is to be commended for both highlighting this fact and promoting the invaluable assistance offered by the Catholic Church and other religious groups who assist women facing crisis pregnancies. The foundation would do well to make this an annual event. Consistent tracking of abortion statistics could nicely demonstrate the incremental progress the pro-life movement is making and would raise the salience of abortion in an area that has not always been particularly receptive to the pro-life message.

Note: In the spirit of full disclosure, the Chiaroscuro Foundation asked me to review the methodology they used to describe the incidence of abortion in New York City.

— Michael J. New is an assistant professor at the University of Alabama and a fellow at the Witherspoon Institute



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