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What's "Adequate Access" to Abortion?

Dateline: 2/19/00

Planned Parenthood gets up in arms over some interesting things:

"House Denies Poor Women Access to Abortion Services"

Reading this press release, you probably picture weeping women and girls turned away from clean, modern, legal abortion facilities because they are unable to pay. It's a picture of pathos. It's compelling.

It's bogus.

Let's look at what the abortion picture in DC really looks like. Let's visit the Centers for Disease Control's recent tabulation of abortion ratios and rates:

(It's hard to read because the print is so small, but you can order a copy of the report yourself or ask for it by Interlibrary Loan at your local library if you can't read it online.)

Now, let's look at the abortion ratios and rates for the District of Columbia compared to the rest of the country.

The abortion ratio -- which is the number of abortions per 1,000 live births -- is 1,000 for DC. The state that comes next in ranking is Rhode Island, with 447 abortions per 1,000 live births. The average, nationwide, is 311 abortions for every 1,000 live births. In other words, there are twice as many abortions per live births in DC as in Rhode Island, and three times as many abortions per live births in DC as averaged nationwide.

The abortion rate -- the number of abortions per 1,000 women of childbearing age -- is 100 for DC. That's 10% of all women of childbearing age having abortions. The state that comes closest is California, with 40 abortions per 1,000 women of childbearing age. The national average is 20 abortions per 1,000 women of childbearing age.

Abortion Statistics
Who has abortions? Where? Why?

To be fair, in the District of Columbia, roughly half the abortions are done on out-of-state (or in this case, out-of-district) residents. That still means that half the remaining abortions are done on DC residents, which would give us an abortion ratio of 500 and an abortion rate of 50 -- still higher than anybody else by a significant margin. This is doubly true when you reflect that 20% of Rhode Island abortions are also done on out-of-state women, so only 80% of their abortion ratio (or 358) applies to Rhode Island residents.

For purposes of this discussion, we must wonder why, if the District is so unfriendly to abortion-seeking women, roughly 7,000 women a year come into the District from neighboring states for their abortions.

The primary cause for reflection, however, is this: As many abortions as live births constitutes, in Planned Parenthood's estimation, "blocked access." How many abortions would they consider adequate?


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