That’s not a question we are accustomed to hearing. For the most part, abortion—America’s most divisive issue—plays out as a question of competing rights. So it will be this weekend as pro-life and pro-choice legions each mark the 38th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s landmark Roe v. Wade decision on abortion.
Yet a simple figure released earlier this month by the Chiaroscuro Foundation, a private nonprofit organization, provokes a different question. After crunching the latest statistics from New York City’s Health Department, the foundation reported that 41% of pregnancies (excluding miscarriage) in New York ended in abortion. That’s double the national rate.
So again the question: As a society, does this figure say anything about the choice between a baby and abortion? Even for those who believe the choice for an abortion belongs to a woman alone and ought to be unfettered by city, state or federal law, is there any ratio such a person would say is too high?
The question becomes even more compelling when broken down by race. For Hispanics, the abortion rate was 41.3%—i.e., more than double the rate for whites. For African-Americans the numbers are still more grim: For every 1,000 African-American live births in New York, there were 1,489 abortions.
These numbers can make Roe seem very distant. Years ago, Bill Clinton famously summed up the pro-choice argument as “safe, legal, and rare.” What can the qualifier “rare” mean, however, unless it means that in some fundamental sense, a baby is better than an abortion?
Some, of course, will argue that what they mean is that America ought to devote more resources to helping women prevent getting pregnant in the first place. Whether or not that’s as easily done as said, a focus on not getting pregnant does nothing for the woman who is pregnant and finds herself with a hard choice.
So how is New York responding? Earlier this month, the Chiaroscuro Foundation put together a high-profile press conference that brought the archbishop of New York and the leader of the one of Orthodox Jewry’s most distinguished organizations (Agudath Israel of America) together with the African-American pastor of a large, Harlem church and a Latina who serves as a spokeswoman for Democrats for Life. As the New York Sun pointed out, notwithstanding all this ecumenical focus on New York’s distinction as America’s abortion capital, it elicited nary a peep from the mayor.
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Thanks to FWD from Gayle Born.