Black Women Having More Abortions Than Live Births In NYC, Study Shows

The New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene has released a new report on the city's pregnancy, birth, and abortion rates, and the numbers paint a fairly interesting picture. For instance, the abortion rate in New York City has been in sharp decline over the past decade and is now a full 19 percent lower than in 2003, though it remains above the national average. So much for all that talk about heathen, city-dwelling liberals going on rampant abortion sprees, huh? Most surprising, though, is the news that black women are having more abortions than live births in NYC.

First, the numbers: Black women are experiencing unusually high abortion rates for New York City, at a rate of 115 per 1000 women, while Hispanics, the group with the second highest rate in the city, have a rate of 96 per 1000 women. Black women also have abortions younger than other ethnic groups. Black women aged 15 to 19 have abortions at rates more than four times that of non-Hispanic white girls the same age.

While a lot of people are raising a fuss that more black women are having abortions than having babies, the real question is why? Most likely because more are living in lower income areas. Brooklyn and the Bronx have both the highest birth rates and the highest rates of abortion. As the report itself notes, low income neighborhoods have less pre-natal care, more pre-term births, and more underweight newborns, which makes it no surprise that low income teens also have less access to emergency birth control.

Looking at the report's map of city birth rates, it's striking how well it lines up with maps tracking income inequality in New York City — and with maps of communities of color. Black women have both a higher abortion rate and a higher pregnancy rate (though a lower rate of live births) than New York's population as a whole — and those women are also more likely to be low income in New York City, a status that often means a high rate of unwanted pregnancies. Though this report doesn't speculate, it is highly likely that a lack of affordable contraceptives and reproductive resources result in a glut of unwanted pregnancies, which results in a high number of abortions.

This report does not make many overt claims about income and women's reproductive health, but it's not hard to look at the data and draw the conclusion that low income women in New York City are underserved when it comes to reproductive health care, and since income inequality is particularly pronounced among people of color, those populations are effected. So it isn't just about abortion rates among black women; it's about underlying causes linked not to personal choices, but to inherent inequalities based in race and socioeconomic status. In other words, you have some work to do, New York.