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Abortion and Black Babies in New York City

Dana Gethers | 3/11/2014, 12:30 p.m.

More Black babies were aborted in 2012 than born alive, according to a study published in the, “Summary of Vital Statistics of 2012; The City of New York Pregnancy Outcomes.”

The statistics compiled by the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene revealed that 15 to 49-year-old non-Hispanic, Black women in New York City had 24,758 live births and 31,328 abortions. There were also 3,446 miscarriages or other pre-birth complications, not included in these numbers.

The Guttmacher Institute reports on abortion laws across the country and allows for comparison of abortion laws by state. The institute's data reveals that New York State has relatively mild abortion laws compared to other states. For example, New York does not require that a licensed physician perform abortions, nor does the state restrict public funding for abortions cases of life endangerment, rape, or incest. Other states such as Pennsylvania and Florida do restrict public funding. While individuals in New York State can refuse abortions, institutions cannot refuse to participate in the practice. Those seeking abortions in New York State are also not required to have counseling before undergoing an abortion.

New York state is home to a large concentration of the country’s Black population. The U.S Census Bureau reports that in 2010, of the 10 states with the largest Black-alone-or-in-combination populations, New York was number one with 3.3 million. The only other states that have laws that are nearly as liberal as New York’s are Oregon, California, and Vermont. California has a similarly large Black population.

Some who are either opposed to abortions or opposed to the accompanying idea that frequent abortions promote a self-imposed genocide in the Black community, maintain that the accessibility of abortions for young Black teens is problematic.

This data is prime evidence for groups like the National Black Pro-Life Union which has been rallying supporters to discourage abortion in the Black community. Claims such as, “Abortion is the number one killer in the black community,” and the claim that “As of today, abortion has successfully killed more than 17 million Black babies since 1973,” fill the groups website.

But, Cheryl L. Somers, associate professor and director of the School and Community Psychology program at Wayne State University, argues that data about abortions can be deceptive.

"The [studies] on abortion are missing a key piece of information and that is the raw difference in pregnancy rates," Somers told The Huffington Post. "Per capita, there are going to be more abortions, because we know that African Americans have a high teen pregnancy rate. So this doesn't tell the whole story. It's almost irresponsible, because it misleads the public... and it really perpetuates racial bias."

A closer look at the Department of Health’s Pregnancy Outcomes data reveals that the disparity in the abortion rates amongst Black women in the city are the result of more terminations than live births particularly for younger Black women. While age groups 30-39 and 40-49 counted for more live births than terminations; girls 15-19 totaled 1,778 live births and 4,415 abortions, and women 20-29 totaled 11,812 live births and 17,390 abortions.

Knowledge of this data in addition to New York State’s notoriety for having the highest abortion rate in the country was a major influence in the city’s controversial teen pregnancy prevention campaign.

Despite the campaigns’ efforts to quell the high rate of abortion, a Huffington Post article points out that “there has not been a study that has found the direct cause for the high abortion rate among black teenagers.”