Politics & Policy

Mayor for Life

What's Hyding in the Giuliani record.

As conservatives watch the second GOP presidential debate tonight, they surely will hear plenty about abortion. Rudolph W. Giuliani should detail what really happened to abortions while he was mayor of New York. The data present an encouraging picture of what he actually did as mayor and might do as president to promote abortion: Nothing.

The pro-choice Guttmacher Institute reports that abortions across America fell from 1,495,000 in 1993 to 1,303,000 in 2001, a 12.8-percent decrease. (Guttmacher’s surveys of all known U.S. abortion providers are more reliable than the Centers for Disease Control’s nationwide figures; California and New Hampshire stopped reporting abortions to the CDC, and Alaska did not do so until 2003.)

Between 1993 and 2001, abortions in Gotham fell 16.9 percent, from 103,997 to 86,466, according to the New York State Vital Statistics Bureau (NYS VSB). True, abortions dropped more quickly in upstate New York, down 26.9 percent (48,973 vs. 35.805), and across New York State as a whole: off 20.1 percent (152,970 vs. 122,271). Nonetheless, overall abortions in New York City comfortably outpaced the 12.8 percent national decline during pro-choice Giuliani’s tenure (January 1, 1994 through December 31, 2001).

See chart here.

Even more impressive is an area in which Giuliani had influence: taxpayer-funded Medicaid abortions. While the pro-choice Giuliani was at City Hall, Medicaid abortions plunged 22.9 percent (45,006 in 1993; 34,722 in 2001), NYS VSB reports. This exceeded upstate New York’s 21.7 percent decline in Medicaid abortions (11,599 vs. 9,084) and the 22.6 percent fall-off in Medicaid abortions in New York State overall (56,605 in ’93; 43,806 in ’01). Again, New York taxpayers subsidized fewer abortions in the Big Apple during Giuliani’s rule than they did in New York’s counties stretching from Westchester to the Canadian frontier.

See chart here.

Thanks to the 1976 Hyde Amendment, federal Medicaid abortions are negligible. Hyde strictly limits federal funding to terminating pregnancies that involve rape, incest, or threats to mothers’ lives.

What about the abortion ratio? The number of abortions per 1,000 live births also reflects well on Giuliani. According to Guttmacher, the national abortion ratio fell from 274 abortions per 1,000 live births in 1993 to 245 in 2001, a 10.6 percent decline. In New York City, the ratio of 890 in 1993 dropped to 767 in 2001, a 13.8 percent slide. While this was not as impressive as the 15.4 percent decrease in upstate New York (from 311 in 1993 to 263 in 2001), New York City outperformed the 12.3-percent cut in New York State’s overall abortion ratio (570 in 1993; 500 in 2001).

See chart here.

So, what did Mayor Giuliani actually do at New York’s City Hall to lower abortions?

Nothing specifically.

While Giuliani did not embark upon a pro-life campaign to lower Gotham’s abortions, none of the 12-15 or so pro-lifers in New York City, Albany, or Washington, D.C., who I have interviewed in recent months can identify anything Giuliani enacted to advance abortion, other than deliver pro-choice remarks to such groups as the National Abortion Rights Action League. Giuliani and then-wife Donna Hanover’s six checks totaling $900 to Planned Parenthood count against him, although these were private contributions, not public expenditures, as also was Mrs. Mitt Romney’s $150 gift to Planned Parenthood in 1994.

Asked if he could name any Giuliani plan to push abortion, New York State Conservative party chairman Mike Long told me, “I don’t remember, and I don’t think so.” He added: “I never remember seeing him promote the issue, to my knowledge.”

As New York Catholic archdiocese spokesman Joseph Zwilling said to me: “Off the top of my head, I cannot recall any instances when Mayor Giuliani’s and John Cardinal O’Connor’s different positions on abortion came to the fore while O’Connor was New York’s archbishop.”

Giuliani might have helped abortions decelerate more rapidly than they did nationally by inculcating personal responsibility among New Yorkers. As crime fell, streets sparkled, the economy rebounded, and 58 percent of dependents left welfare, women might have become more cautious about avoiding unwanted pregnancies, and men might have taken more care not to knock them up in the first place. Fewer surprise pregnancies likely triggered fewer abortions.

“Much of the national decline in the incidence of abortion can be attributed to more states enacting pro-life laws,” says Michael New, a University of Alabama assistant professor of political science. “However, it certainly seems plausible that Mayor Giuliani’s efforts at improving New York’s economy, reforming welfare, and cleaning up the city played a role in New York City’s above-average abortion decline.”

Giuliani also would have been feted in this pro-abortion city had he attempted anything as mayor to make abortions more common, available, or economical. His local critics would have stopped bellyaching, at least temporarily, to cheer Giuliani had he pushed abortion. Despite the rose petals that most New Yorkers would have tossed in his path, he did no such thing. (Conversely, in 2002, New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg ordered eight city-run hospitals to add abortion training to the required curriculum for OB-GYN residents. Giuliani could have done this, but did not.)

This is not enough to satisfy many of Giuliani’s pro-life detractors today. The lack of an active anti-abortion program on Giuliani’s part somehow renders meaningless these significant abortion reductions.

Politicians often get credit for “holding the line on taxes.” Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, his fans contend, didn’t cut taxes, but at least he never raised them. (Never mind his $501.5 million in new and increased fees and his $140 million in business-tax-loophole closures.) If this is enough to praise Romney, Giuliani certainly deserves kudos for “holding the line on abortions.”

Of course, Giuliani did more than just “hold the line.” New York City’s abortion ratio fell 13.8 percent during his administration, while total abortions dropped 16.9 percent overall, and taxpayer-funded Medicaid abortions plummeted 22.9 percent. These are big numbers that Giuliani and his supporters should repeat early and often.

As for what President Giuliani would do on abortion, having taken no official action to accelerate feticides while mayor of an abortion-happy metropolis, it is difficult to believe he would reach the Oval Office, then unleash pro-abortion policies while heading a pro-life party and leading a nation clearly divided on the issue.

My fellow pro-lifers should find this argument persuasive. It would be even more convincing if Rudy Giuliani made it himself, starting tonight in the Palmetto State.

For a detailed analysis of the statistics discussed in this piece, click here and here.

Just Can’t Get Enough? Rich Lowry says Giuliani lacks both clarity and conviction on abortion. Mona Charen points out that they all have their problems. Kathryn Lopez calls Romney a “Latter-Day Lifer.”

Deroy Murdock is a Manhattan-based Fox News contributor and a contributing editor of National Review Online, and a senior fellow with the London Center for Policy Research.


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