Thursday, January 19, 2006

New York Daily News -

91,700 abortions in city
Sunday, January 15th, 2006

For every 100 babies born in New York City, women had 74 abortions in 2004, according to newly released figures that reaffirm the city as the abortion capital of the country.

And abortions for out-of-town women performed in the city increased from 57 to 70 out of every 1,000 between 1996 and 2004, a subtle yet noticeable trend that experts say may reflect growing hurdles against the procedure in more conservative parts of the country.

The new Vital Statistics report released by the city Department of Health this month shows there were 124,100 live births, 11,700 spontaneous abortions and 91,700 induced abortions in the city in 2004.

That means 40 out of 100 pregnancies in the city ended in a planned abortion - almost double the national average of 24 of 100 pregnancies in 2002, estimated by the Alan Guttmacher Institute, a Manhattan-based nonprofit group that researches reproductive health issues.

The city's role as a haven for women seeking to end pregnancies may become more pronounced as other states continue to adopt more legal restrictions against abortions - such as laws requiring mandatory waiting periods (25 states), parental consent or notification for minors (35 states) and two visits before an abortion (six states).

"If clinics are hard to get to, or the services are just unavailable, people are going to travel to get what in my mind is a critical public health service," said Joan Malin, president of Planned Parenthood of New York City.

The organization's Margaret Sanger Center in Manhattan is the largest abortion provider in New York, with 11,000 abortions performed a year.

Out-of-towners make up less than 2% of those receiving abortions at the center, but the number has gone up more than 20% in the last year, Malin said.

But abortion opponents called the city's high rate of procedures a "tragic" result of "marketing the culture of death."

"New York City has fashioned itself as being the philosophical center of 'abortion on demand,' and it has a thriving industry to show for it," said Christina Fadden Fitch, legislative director of the New York State Right to Life Committee.

The influx into the city of women seeking abortions could become a deluge - as it was in the early 1970s - if the landmark Roe vs. Wade decision legalizing abortions nationwide is repealed.

"If Roe vs. Wade were overturned and some states outlawed abortions, it's certainly possible we might begin to see more of the interstate travel we saw before," said Lawrence Finer, director for domestic research at the Guttmacher Institute.

That is what abortion-rights advocates feel may happen if Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito is appointed to the bench.

At his Senate confirmation hearings this week, Alito refused to describe Roe vs. Wade as a settled precedent. Under grilling from Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), he also refused to distance himself from his 1985 opinion stating that women do not have a constitutional right to an abortion.

"The evidence is clear that Judge Alito opposes the constitutional right for a woman to choose an abortion, and were he to be confirmed, I would really be concerned about the future of Roe [vs. Wade] and the future of access, particularly for poor women," Malin said.

The Center for Reproductive Rights, an abortion-rights advocacy group, estimates that if Roe vs. Wade were overturned, abortions would likely be banned in 21 states, with the procedure at "medium risk" of being prohibited in another nine states.