Tracking Abortion in America’s Largest Cities
Last Sunday, I had opportunity to speak at the Summer of Mercy 2.0 Youth Rally and met a number of fellow pro-life activists in the process. One of those was Chris Slattery, who is the president of the EMC Frontline Pregnancy Centers in New York City. He brought a group of students with him to the event and they all took the stage wearing Abort73's new NYC shirts. Unbeknownst to me, they had bought out the entire supply from our product table just before the event started. Afterwards, Chris lamented that we hadn't brought more and suggested we make similar shirts for Chicago and DC—cities with fairly horrific abortion rates in their own right.
Upon arriving home, I set out to find current abortion rates for Chicago and Washington, DC and immediately turned up an article commenting on the dramatic reduction in the DC abortion rate. From there, I realized the state-by-state abortion statistics listed on the Abort73 website were no longer current and spent much of the last two days bringing them up to date. They now reflect the most current data available from the Guttmacher Institute (2008) and the Centers for Disease Control (2007). Prior to that, our site was listing state abortion statistics for 2005 and 2006, respectively.
All told, 27 states had an increase in their abortion rate, 23 states (plus DC) had a decline, and one state had no change. None of the changes were particularly dramatic, with three exceptions: Washington, DC, Delaware, and Louisiana. Between 2005 and 2008, AGI reports that the abortion rate in Washington, DC fell by 45%. Over that same period, the Delaware abortion rate increased by 39%. It now has a higher abortion rate than any other state in the country—taking over the ignominious title long held by DC. Louisiana experienced a 37% increase in its abortion rate, but unlike Delaware, is still well below the national average.
All that to say, the abortion rate in Washington, DC, while still 34% above the national average, has fallen dramatically and is a fifth of what it was twenty years ago. But that still left me wondering about Chicago and some of the other big cities in America. The abortion data provided by the Guttmacher Institute (AGI) and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) is helpful for analyzing abortion on a state-by-state level, but if you want to find out the abortion rate for an individual city, you have to do some digging. The only city that the CDC provides individual statistics for is New York City and that because it's generally called the abortion capital of America. Only two states in the country (California and Florida) account for more abortions than NYC.
Thankfully, many states provide fairly easy access to county abortion data through their health department websites. Visiting the Illinois Department of Public Health, I learned that in Cook County, where Chicago resides, there were 75,744 births and 25,196 abortions in 2009. That means for every three children born, one was aborted. By comparison, there were 121,745 births in New York City and 80,629 abortions in 2009. That's one abortion for every 1.5 births. Where I live in Rockford, IL (Winnebago County), there were 3,959 births and 511 abortions in 2009. That equals one abortion for every 7.75 children born. In Washington, DC, there were five births for every one abortion in 2009 (9,021 births / 1,806 abortions).
Because California hasn't made their abortion data publicly available in more than a decade, I wasn't able to calculate abortion ratios for three of America's ten largest cities: Los Angeles, San Diego, and San Jose. Like California, Texas boasts three of the nation's ten largest cities. Unlike California, the Texas Department of State Health Services makes their abortion data available. In Harris County (Houston), there were 71,604 births and 18,912 abortions in 2008. That's one abortion for every 3.8 births—the same ratio I found for Dallas County (43,213 births / 11,424 abortions). In Bexar County (San Antonio), the 2008 abortion ratio was even worse: one abortion for every 3.3 births (24,211 births / 7,313 abortions).
Sitting in the five and six spots for largest American cities are Philadelphia and Phoenix. In 2009, there were 57,663 births in Maricopa County (Phoenix) and 6,732 abortions. That works out to one abortion for every 8.6 births and is easily the lowest abortion ratio among the seven top-ten cities I found data for. But Philadelphia is another matter entirely. With 23,431 births and 14,462 abortions in 2009, it rivals New York City with a ratio of one abortion for every 1.6 births. On the other side of the state, there was one abortion for every 3.1 births in Pittsburgh's Allegheny County (13,113 births / 4,237 abortions).
Out of curiosity, I also calculated the abortion ratios for a handful of other large, American cities. I couldn't find online data for any of the Florida cities* or for Memphis, Louisville, Boston, Denver and New Orleans, but I was able to unearth the following:
- Cleveland, OH / Cuyahoga County (2009): 1 abortion for every 2.1 births (15,525 births / 6,794 abortions)
- Seattle, WA / King County (2009): 1 abortion for every 3 births (25,057 births / 8,121 abortions)
- Atlanta, GA / Fulton County (2007): 1 abortion for every 3 births (13,802 births / 4,605 abortions)
- Detroit, MI / Wayne County (2009): 1 abortion for every 3.3 births (24,646 births / 7,368 abortions)
- St Louis, MO (2009): 1 abortion for every 3.6 births (5,121 births / 1,425 abortions)
- Charlotte, NC / Mecklenburg County (2009): 1 abortion for every 3.7 births (14,453 births - 3,938 abortions)
- Birmingham, AL / Jefferson County (2008): 1 abortion for every 4 births (9,538 births / 2393 abortions)
- Indianapolis, IN / Marion County (2007): 1 abortion for every 4.4 births (15,401 births / 3,489 abortions)
- Milwaukee, WI / Milwaukee County (2009) 1 abortion for every 4.5 births (15,248 births / 3,424 abortions)
- Minneapolis, MN / Hennepin County (2009): 1 abortion for every 4.6 births (19,694 births / 4,286 abortions)
- Columbus, OH / Franklin County (2009): 1 abortion for every 5 births (18,318 births / 3,604 abortions)
Looking at the numbers above, perhaps you wonder if the abortion ratios for large, urban cities are skewed by the number of women who live elsewhere but come into the city for an abortion. After all, though you can give birth in almost any county, you can't get an abortion in every county. You have to go where the clinics are. It should be noted then that the abortion totals listed for each of the above counties are only for residents of that particular county. Abortions performed on residents of other counties are not counted. Though most of the state reports I looked at don't list abortions by total occurrence, a few did. Looking at the numbers, it's easy to see that the actual abortion ratios in these cities are even higher. For instance, in Charlotte there were 3,938 abortions performed on residents of Mecklenburg County, but there were actually 9,996 total abortions. Counting all abortions performed, the actual abortion ratio in Charlotte increases to one abortion for every 1.44 births! In Indianapolis, there were 6,446 total abortions performed in 2007, or one abortion for every 2.4 births. In Columbus, 5,581 total abortions increase the ratio to one abortion for every 3.3 births.
Delaware, which has an off-the-chart abortion rate, has a resident-only abortion ratio that is comparable to the cities listed above. There is one abortion for every 3.4 births in Wilmington, the largest city in Delaware (7,229 births - 2,105 abortions). Statewide, there is one abortion for every 3.6 births (12,016 births / 3,307 abortions), but that only counts abortions performed on in-state residents. If you take into account the fact that 28% of Delaware abortions are performed on out-of-state residents, the ratio increases to one abortion for every 2.6 births (12,016 births / 4,603 abortions). In Washington DC, more than half of all abortions are performed on out-of-state residents. Conversely, less than 8% of the 2009 abortions in New York City were performed on non-residents, and since 4% of 2009 NYC births were to non-residents, the overall NYC abortion-to-birth ratio is not significantly changed: 1 abortion for every 1.45 births (126,774 births / 87,273 abortions). It's understandable why abortion numbers are generally counted by place of residence rather than by place of occurrence, particularly if you're comparing total abortions to live births, but it is something to keep in mind. The huge majority of abortions in America occur in large cities.
A couple days ago, I listened to an interview Al Mohler had with Joel Kotkin, who The New York Times describes as "America’s uber geographer." Governments, universities, and industries all look to him for help in figuring out what regions offer the most growth potential for the future. In introducing him, Dr. Mohler quotes from one of Kotkin's books and says, "If you want to look at something that tells you where the future is headed, just think of this: What’s the birthrate?” The decision to have a child, Kotkin says, is "a vote for the future." Dr. Mohler picks up on this theme and points out what an advantage America's historically high birthrate has been. He comments:
If you look at the relative position of America versus other civilizations and cultures, there is no doubt that America has an incredible advantage. If you want to think of it in economics, think of it as an economic advantage. The advantage of having young workers, young educated workers. Compare that to Europe, which has had a birthrate decline from the last several decades that is now apparently almost irreversible and Asia, which had been in recent years the real focus of concern about population growth, which is now actually being challenged by a population dearth. You even have China rethinking its infamous one child only policy because it turns out that one child only isn’t going to support a civilization in which you have multiple parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles that are going to need support. In fact, they are going to need workers and institutions that are going to need students and all the rest.
Kotkin says the great struggle of the next fifty years will be between two competing ideologies. He calls one the "steady state agenda" modeled by much of Europe (France in particular), where there is very little ambition for development and progress. It's an assumption or concession of sorts that your best days are behind you, that what's important now is to maintain as much of your culture and comforts as you can for as long as you can. On the other side is the "upward mobility agenda," which has been a historically American doctrine, but is now waning in certain sectors. It refuses to rest on laurels, accept the status quo, or be content to leave things just as they are. The first agenda has a more pessimistic view of the future and is accompanied by lower populations, fewer children and less economic growth. The second is quite the opposite. When adhered to, both become self-fulfilling prophecies. On that subject, I recently heard from a 36-year-old woman who is pregnant and terrified of telling her husband about the pregnancy—for fear that he will demand she have another abortion. In the second of her two emails she revealed that though she didn't want an abortion, she was afraid her husband could talk her into one again—by playing upon her fears that the current state of the world is no place to raise a child.
More than 3,300 times a day in the United States, we vote against the future by aborting a child. Expecting the future to be a dark place, we make it even darker. Dr. Mohler notes that from the '50's through the '70's, urban strategists believed that the American population would eventually be concentrated in California, Chicago and the Northeast. Twenty years later, the opposite is happening. The latest census data reveals that the biggest cities in America are growing well below the national average. Their disproportionate devotion to abortion isn't the only factor, but it's a big one. And it's not just about the numbers. At some level, every abortion is a declaration that the future is fragile and bleak. It's not robust enough to support another person. Ultimately, nobody knows what the future holds, but if it's true that the future is what you make it, abortion is making the future very bleak—especially in some of America's most populous cities.
*The week after posting this, I received the abortion data I'd requested from the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration by email. Tracking total 2009 births and abortions by county of occurrence (not county of residence), there was one abortion for every 1.8 births in Orlando / Orange County (15,393 births - 8,406 abortions), one abortion for every 1.8 births in Jacksonville / Duval County (13,176 births - 7,294 abortions), one abortion for every 1.7 births in Ft. Lauderdale / Broward County (21,394 births / 12,827 abortions), and one abortion for every 1.8 births in Miami-Dade county (32,341 births / 17,705 abortions).
Michael Spielman is the founder and director of Abort73.com. His book, Love the Least (A Lot), is available as a free download. You can also find him on Facebook and Google+. Abort73 is part of Loxafamosity Ministries, a 501c3, Christian education corporation. If you have been helped by the information available at Abort73.com, please consider making a donation.