Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Pro-choice in the City: why NYC needs a strong counseling law

It's no surprise that in NYC, as in the rest of America, women seeking abortion are mostly unmarried: 80% single with about 20% married (the only exception of note here is Mormon Utah, where nearly 40% of abortions are sought by married women.)

In 1995, only 37.1 % of New York City abortions were for women having an abortion for the first time. Over 60% of abortions were for women having their second abortion (or more). 28.6% of NYC abortions were for women having their second abortion. 17.3% were for women having their third abortion. 15.8% were for women having their fourth abortion (or more). These second abortions are less "choices" than acts of desperation by women who fear their lives are slipping out of countrol; they are excellent candidates for a strong counseling program.

If the rest of the country was more moderate than NYC, the evidence was nonetheless troubling: nationally, only 54% of abortions are done on women having their first abortion. 26.4% are for women having their second abortion. 10.7 % are for women having their third abortion. 6.7 % are for women having their fourth abortion or more. If all second abortions in the US could be eliminated, the rate of abortion would drop by about half.

Women seeking abortion typically already have have given birth at least once before. In NYC, only 32.6% had no previous live births. 28.1% had one; 20.9% had two; 9.2% had three; 5.9 had four or more. Nationally, only 44.6% had no previous live births. 26.2% had one; 17.8% had two; 6.7% had three; 3.4% had four or more. We don't have breakdowns by married and single women, but since 80% of women seeking abortion are single, the overall picture is troubling.

I suspect that when most Americans think of abortion, they think of a college age white woman without children seeking a means of dealing with an unfortunate failure of contraception. The actual picture is quite different. Women seeking abortion are usually unmarried, and have often had both previous abortions and previous children out of wedlock. Their seeking abortion is part of a pattern of lives in deep pain and emotional disarray.

This suggests again the wisdom of a strong mandatory counseling law along German lines. These are women in serious need of help, and with proper intervention the rate of abortions in the United States could be dramatically reduced; judging by the German experience, perhaps as much as 60-80%.

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