I love numbers and statistics.
Side Note: For any of my Board Members who are reading this - I love it when I can read numbers and statistics that OTHER people have compiled. I'm still going to whine when I have to do my own, so don't get excited.
Why do I love them? Because they paint a picture for us, if we're willing to look for it.
Numbers often get a bad rap as being boring, dull, and useless. Why pick through statistics when they don't matter? Stories and images draw us in. Numbers? Less so.
So, let me break the Pennsylvania Abortion Report down for you. If you want to see the whole thing you for yourself, you can find it online.
First of all, what is the Pennsylvania Abortion Report? Pennsylvania, like all states, keeps track of statistics like births, deaths, marriages, etc. In addition to these statistics, it reports on maternal death rates and abortion. This is great for us (pro-lifers) because it gives us solid information about what type of women are obtaining abortions in our state. Far from a meaningless list of disconnected data, these numbers show us which women in our state are most in need. Then, we can develop a plan to reach out to them.
If you're not from Pennsylvania, find out what information is available on your state. Trust me, it will help you understand what we're facing.
First, the big scary number. In 2018 in Pennsylvania there were 30,364 abortions performed. That's a lot of babies. For some reference, in 2017 there were 137,743 live births in Pennsylvania (2018 numbers aren't out yet). This isn't including miscarriages or stillbirths, which would certainly make the number higher.
The problem with numbers like that is that it's hard for us to really understand them. Here are some facts to help you grasp the amount of children 30,364 really is:
1. An average of just over 83 abortions were performed each day in Pennsylvania
(including weekends and holidays).
2. If each of these babies took a seat in PNC Park the stadium would be 80% filled.
3. The number of abortions annually in Pennsylvania is nearly equal to the population of New Castle, Slippery Rock, and Grove City PA combined
(Source: US Census Bureau).
Let's keep digging.
The Pennsylvania abortion report also gives us information on the race of the mother. While nearly half of all abortions in Pennsylvania were performed on white women, the next largest racial group, at 43%, identified themselves as African American. This is important, because while African American women accounted for 43% of the abortions in 2018, only 12% of the population of Pennsylvania is African American. This shows us that in our state abortion disproportionately affects the African American community. (This is also true nationwide.)
Further, 10% of abortions were performed on women who identified themselves as Hispanic even though only 7% of Pennsylvania's population identifies as Hispanic. This shows us that in Pennsylvania, just like the nation, abortion providers target women of color. Are white women having abortions? Yes. White women accounted for 48% of abortions in 2018. However, 81% of the PA population identifies as white. So, while white women accounted for the largest number of Pennsylvania abortions in 2018 we must remember that white people are also by far the largest racial group in the state.
Further, realize that none of these statistics reflect the race of the father or the baby. So, while a white woman may be seeking an abortion that doesn't mean that the child (given the opportunity) would identify themselves as white. A white mother could give birth to a child that would consider themselves African American, Hispanic, Asian, or any other other race. With this consideration, the affect on nonwhite communities may be much higher.
Next consideration. Age. How old are women when they obtain an abortion? Often, we labor under the impression that woman choosing abortion are very young and probably still in high school. An older woman would choose to have her baby, right?
Not quite. In 2018 the largest age group to obtain an abortion was 25-29. This group accounts for 30% of Pennsylvania abortions. What about young girls? Only 2.7% of abortions in 2018 were performed on girls under the age of 18. Ages 20-24 accounted for 28% of all 2018 abortions. This means that the majority of women seeking an abortion aren't teenagers - they're women in their twenties. This information affects how pregnancy centers should advertise, how their materials are worded, and what resources should be ready. After all, a woman in her late twenties is going to be very different from a sixteen-year-old girl.
Third, let's look at marital status. More than 88% of abortions were performed on unmarried women. Why does this matter? A woman looking at becoming a single mother is facing very different challenges than a married woman. Further, we as believers must acknowledge that by reducing the rate of premarital sex, we can have a direct impact on the abortion rate. After all, if single people weren't becoming pregnant they wouldn't be seeking abortions.
The fourth piece of information we can glean from this report is location. While every county has residents that have obtained abortions, not every county has an abortion provider. In fact, abortions were only provided in 12 counties in Pennsylvania in 2018. The smallest of those, Montour, is only responsible for 6 abortions and the largest was Philadelphia, responsible for 14,495.
What about our area? Pittsburgh in Allegheny County was responsible for 6,088 abortions. That's the county with the second highest number of abortions performed in our state. Also, Allegheny County is where Alpha Omega Center's clients and potential clients would most likely go to get an abortion (although some may go to Ohio).
Finally, let's look at gestational age and procedure. This matters because when we understand how far along most mothers are we can customize our education, offerings, and advertising to women of that gestational age. In 2018, 62% of Pennsylvania abortions were performed on babies who were eight weeks old or less. The smallest percentage (1.5%) of abortions were performed on babies 21-23 weeks old (babies at this age are often able to live outside of the womb).
In Pennsylvania no abortions were reportedly performed on babies 24 weeks plus. That's illegal in our state. Does that mean it didn't happen? As Kermit Gosnell has so brutally shown us, just because something is illegal doesn't mean it isn't happening. I would not be surprised to find that late-term abortions are being performed and not reported.
Since the majority of these small babies were only 8 weeks along or less that means that most mothers had the option to choose the RU486 (nonsurgical) abortion instead of the suction curettage (surgical) abortion. The nonsurgical abortion can seem "more natural" than a surgical procedure as well as more private. It carries with it many risks, but continues to rise in popularity. This method is also much cheaper for abortion clinics than a surgical abortion.
Of the early abortions, over half of them were nonsurgical. I believe this number will continue to grow. Also, it doesn't reflect any women who chose to have an at-home abortion with pills they procured over the internet.
What does this mean for Alpha Omega Center? This means that our typical client will be a white, unmarried woman in her twenties. Just behind her, and at a higher risk of choosing abortion, will be African American young ladies, also single and also in their twenties.
Does this mean we will never see a teenager, a twelve year old, or a woman in her thirties or forties? Of course not, and we're here for anyone who needs us. However, when we know who is most at-risk for abortion we can provide our best services and advertising. We want to gear our marketing more towards older women than teenagers. Also, we want to be sure that we're using photos and models that are racially diverse. Finally, we want to be sure that we're offering plenty of help and support to women who are early in pregnancy as well as good information on the risks and side effects of nonsurgical and surgical abortions.
Finally, we all need to be ready to help single moms who choose life. If 88% of women seeking abortions are unmarried then it stands to reason that most mothers who turn from abortion to life will be unmarried. They will need the Church, the body of Christ, to surround them with love and support. The Church will be needed not just for the months of pregnancy, but for the duration of their parenting journey.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, each of these numbers represents people. A number like 30,364 seems impossibly high, but for each abortion there is a hurting mother, a brokenhearted father, and a damaged community. The ripple effects of abortion are much greater than we can possibly understand. Abortion isn't limited to the baby, or to the baby and the mother. Abortion affects all of us.
So, don't look at these numbers as meaningless scribbles on the page. See them as faces. Each one of these women went through something that has the capacity to cause depression, suicidal ideation, addiction, and despair. These women, and the women from previous years, need us. They need believers to love them, grieve with them, and introduce them to Christ.
This task can seem impossible, but it really isn't. God is with us. He loves these women and children more than we do.
So, let's get to work. Let's do everything we can in 2020 to make abortion unthinkable.
Note: These data were provided by the Pennsylvania Department of Health. The Department specifically disclaims responsibility for any analyses, interpretations, or conclusions.
Further, while I do enjoy discussing these statistics math was never my strong suit. So, if I made an error you have my apology.