by Cathy Cleaver Ruse, Esq.
December 5, 2003
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) published its latest survey on abortion in the United States on the day after Thanksgiving. The survey, reporting legal induced abortions obtained in the United States in the year 2000, contains some eye-opening findings you will not likely read in the mainstream press. To read the full report, visit www.cdc.gov/nccdphp/drh/surv_abort.htm. Keep in mind that the survey presents data which is voluntarily reported by cities and states, the mechanisms by which cities and states gather the data in the first place can vary widely, and some states don't report at all. California, which in 1997 was responsible for 23% of all abortions nationwide, decided in 1998 to remain mum on abortion within its borders, as did New Hampshire and Alaska. Since the CDC has no information from jurisdictions which together account for nearly one-fourth of abortions nationwide, it is impossible to have any real analysis of national trends. Still, the publication gives a startling, if incomplete, picture of abortion in the United States at the end of the last century, and is worth review. Some of the findings include the following:
Women die from legal abortion. The survey reports that 14 women died as a result of complications from known legal induced abortion in 1998 and 1999. Data on deaths from 2000 is not yet available. In fact, from 1973 to 1999 at least 327 women have died from legal induced abortion according to the study.
Abortion rates change with race. In the areas for which race was adequately reported, "the abortion rate for black women was 3.1 times the rate for white women." In addition, "the abortion ratio for black women (503 per 1,000 per live births) was 3.0 times the ratio for white women (167 per 1,000 live births)." This means that black babies are aborted three times more frequently than white babies.
Multiple abortions are the norm, not the exception. According to the survey, where the "number of previous abortions was adequately reported," 53% of women had an abortion for the first time in 2000. That means 47% of women having abortions in 2000 were not having their first abortion. How many abortions do women have? The survey breaks it down by state, but stops counting at "3 or more previous legal induced abortions." In 2000, Maryland had the highest percentage of women having their fourth (or more) abortion: 16.7%. New York City had the second highest ratio, with 14.7% of women having at least their fourth abortion in 2000.
The highest number of reported legal induced abortions in 2000 occurred in New York City: 94,466. Florida and Texas had the second and third highest abortion numbers, 88,563 and 76,121 respectively. California likely ranks among the top, but they won't tell.
What is lacking from the survey is any indication why these abortions occurred. The report states simply that they were elective procedures. The abortion lobby dismisses the question of why, insisting that "who decides?" is all that matters. But "why" does matter very much. Why did each of these women wake up one morning, get into a car or a cab, and take that fateful drive? This is perhaps the most important question of all.
Cathy Cleaver Ruse, Esq. is the director of planning and information for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities.