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Why Does New York Perform So Many Abortions Per Person?

Though its abortion rate fell 13%, California still leads the nation by far in the number of abortions, with more than 208,000 in 2005. But that looks like it’s solely due to population.

New York came in second, with more than 155,000. And while New York has around 53% of the population that California does, it has only 25% or so fewer abortions than California. (I’m doing math with lots of round numbers here.)

California has 13 million more people than Texas, and Texas has 4 million more people than New York—but Texas has a bit more than half the number of abortions of New York.

Similarly, Florida has just a million fewer people than New York, but Florida has only about 60% of the number of abortions that New York does. I can understand why there might be fewer abortions in the south—but why more abortions in New York per person than elsewhere? (Uh, if I’m doing math right.) What gives?

Reader comments

DeannaJan 18, 2008 at 3:43PM

The way you've written this out is really convoluted. I feel like it needs to be diagramed out, a la "if bob has three apples and sara has eight apples more than tim....". So... wanna add a diagram?

Anyways... new york probably has more because it's probably a magnet for the lower-population states around it. Either that or people are just sluttier and less responsible with the birth control.

I'm mostly kidding with that last part.

Matt HaugheyJan 18, 2008 at 3:53PM

It's way more expensive to raise a child in New York than it is in say, Texas

BonzoJan 18, 2008 at 3:54PM

Please, just give us a table.

State Abortions / person
==== ============

BonzoJan 18, 2008 at 3:57PM

Of course New York has relatively high number of abortions. All the men left New York a long time ago. Because men can not have abortions, the preponderance of females in New York's population is skewing your numbers.

MaureenJan 18, 2008 at 4:05PM

I think Deanna has something with the idea that New York serves people who are not residents of the state with abortion services at a higher rate than the other states. Frankly, due to cultural differences, I don't think that you can compare Texas to New York and California.

mandyJan 18, 2008 at 4:12PM

I think an argument could be made that it's much easier to get an abortion in NY. There are probably more service providers in NYC than in the entire state of Texas.

Paul SantosJan 18, 2008 at 4:14PM

Not to trivialize the discussion, but have you factored in the number of delegates that New York has for the presidential election? Given New York's status as a fairly liberal state, it seems that the likelihood of abortions might be relative to potential delegates that could sway a Roe v Wade decision in a future Supreme Court case. I think I read in "Freakonomics" that there are more abortions conducted in locations that have more involved parents in schools, even though that seems very counterintuitive. Either way, politics and abortion is so intermingled, I think the presidential race has to be considered.

Robert C.Jan 18, 2008 at 4:14PM

Abortion data probably skews heavily based on demographics. What's the difference in the populations of women aged 18-35 in New York vs. Calif.?

I wouldn't be surprised if race and class were also important factors in understanding the difference in abortion rates -- and of course there are cultural differences as well. But correct for age demographics and you might have a better data set from which to make gross generalizations.

AndyJan 18, 2008 at 4:16PM

Access. New York has no parental consent requirement for abortions and no mandated waiting periods. And for low-income women (citizens and immigrants), New York will pay for the procedure .

dJan 18, 2008 at 4:29PM

Average marriage ages are probably a factor. People in the Northeast tend to get married later than people in much of the rest of the country according to the most recent census.

benJan 18, 2008 at 4:32PM

There was a feature in New York Magazine about this...

The Abortion Capital of America
As the pro-life movement intensifies nationwide, New York contemplates its history and future as a refuge.

basically, New York is a safe haven for women who live in states where it's difficult to do

Josh MadisonJan 18, 2008 at 4:34PM

I would tend to believe it is partly due to the fact that NYC is a magnet for people just out of school looking for work. Young professionals are not the most responsible, will make a lot of money, and may make some mistakes. Those mistakes that happen at the beginning of their careers are going to be "fixed" quickly rather than have them affect their careers.

Joel!Jan 18, 2008 at 4:51PM

Have you factored in that we have more Apple stores per square mile?

SuperJdynamiteJan 18, 2008 at 4:54PM

Looking at census data sheds at least a little light on the subject.

* Florida has the highest percent of the population aged 65 and over. I'm guessing lack of fertility causes some slump in the number of abortions.
* New York does have one of the higher female:male ratios.
* The states around New York also have higher female:male ratios. Also, I'd guess that more people from Jersey and Connecticut travel to NY for services than people from Nevada travel to California or people from Georgia travel to Florida.

fittaJan 18, 2008 at 4:57PM

Access! NY has the least restrictions and the most providers of any state that I worked with back in my activist days.

People come from NJ, CT, PA among others to get abortions in good old NYC.

tirzhaJan 18, 2008 at 5:00PM

@ Joel! I just spit hot cocoa all over my computer screen.

KaahlJan 18, 2008 at 5:51PM

Hmm, so to summarize:

- marriage age
- male : female ratio
- population age, esp. females

- better access
- more liberal

- easy travel to abortion-ville from neighboring states

- cost of raising a child in ny

- too many active members of PTA
- too many electoral delegates
- too many apple stores
- ny-ers too slutty

So, six weeks ago a young, poor, unmarried Democrat from Connecticut takes the train to Penn Station to go to the Apple store in the meatpacking district. She meets a guy there, and to win him over from the slutty locals, agrees to have irresponsible sex with him. Knowing the cost of raising a child in NYC, where she plans to move, and wanting to punish her over-bearing, PTA-attending mother, she decides to abort the fetus. Naturally, she decides to have the procedure done in NYC and takes comfort knowing that it will be easy, cheap, and overseen by the states electoral delegates.

sbkJan 18, 2008 at 5:54PM

There's an AP article about financial strain being a big factor in the decision to have an abortion. Maybe NY has more poor people per capita than other states?

BobJan 18, 2008 at 6:00PM

I think you answered that question yourself not long ago, Choire:

TimJan 18, 2008 at 7:24PM

In particular, New York will perform abortions in the second trimester. Many other states, including the states surrounding it, won't.

Which suggests the question -- in what other states is it relatively easy to find an abortion provider? Why aren't those states attracting out-of-state residents in numbers? Or are they?

JarrodJan 19, 2008 at 12:10AM

It's blue state vs. red state mentality. Is it really hard to believe that abortions occur at a significantly higher rate in a state filled with liberals who support the "right to choose"... than a Bible thumping state who support the "right to life?"

Barry KellyJan 19, 2008 at 6:56AM

Use 'abortions / 1000 people', or some other sane way of representing the data. What you wrote makes almost no sense without people doing their own research.

TedJan 19, 2008 at 9:30AM

Possibly because NY is a very liberal state, and liberals tend to favor abortion in cases of unwanted pregnancies?

[email protected]Jan 19, 2008 at 2:46PM

For those of you unable to simply type "New York State Population" into your search engine, it woks out to about one abortion for every 125 people. Of that population, 51.5% are female, which makes one abortion for every 65 people. Of that 65 people, roughly 30% are not of child bearing age, so this makes New Yorks abortion rate roughly one abortion for every 45 or so eligible persons.

egermanJan 19, 2008 at 11:09PM

you missed something very important. These are reported abortions, not actual abortions. NY's progressive laws do not mean that more women get abotions there, but that more women get above-the-board abortions. My guess it that the number for Texas is substantially similar, but with poor women forced into the back-alley because of post-Harris restrictions (read up on the Hyde amendment and whether or not it reduced the number of abortions or whether it drove women underground).

If you factor in underground abortions forced by restrictions such as parental notification and cost, control for demographics, and acknowledge the possibility of border crossing, any problem will quickly dissapear. Legal restrictions do not reduce the number of abortions, but merely the number of above-ground abortions.

HragJan 20, 2008 at 2:11PM

My hunch would be it's about access to facilities.

This thread is closed to new comments. Thanks to everyone who responded.