The Pennsylvania Department of Health’s 2018 Abortion Report gives us good news on abortion numbers, and ratios to live births, for Allegheny County, and two other “firsts” for Pittsburgh and Pennsylvania:
In 2018 we also saw the second lowest number of abortions performed in Allegheny County – 6,088.
Let’s start with the last piece of news first: abortions performed in the County were at their second lowest number – 6,088 – eight more than the number in 2016. From the graph below, it seems that we have hit something like a “floor”: to drive abortion numbers lower, we’re going to have to do more. In fact, we are doing more: we are using Google Ads to advertise Women’s Choice Network as well as Choices Pregnancy Services now, and our Facebook ads are now reaching 50,000 or so women each month, and targeting those we think are more likely to be facing unintended pregnancies. (From just January 1 to January 10, we have reached over 62,000 women and had 22 clicks on the “Call Now” button on our Facebook ads, connecting women to the Abortion Pill Rescue Network – advertising works!) We won’t see the result of our recent increased and focused ad work until early 2022, but we expect to make that floor of raw numbers a staircase going downwards.
Abortion ratios show the true picture
In fact, from another perspective, we have already gone below that floor. Abortions decline if pregnancy rates decline, but that doesn’t tell us anything about our success in reaching pregnant women. We want to know if more of the women who are pregnant are choosing life. So we look at the ratios of abortions to live births for residents of Allegheny County. There, the picture is better.
Here we see that abortion ratios are at their lowest ever. From 2010 to 2018, ratios declined 15 percent in the rest of PA. In Allegheny County, they declined 26 percent!
You expect higher abortion ratios in urban settings, but 2018’s number for Pittsburgh residents is actually less than the highest number for the rest of the State (241), which includes all those rural counties. That “floor” seems to have given way here, as the numbers have now fallen two years in a row, a drop of 7.1 percent!
We see the difference between Pittsburgh and the rest of PA in the birth statistics. (Ignore the proximity of the lines in the chart below; they are on two different scales: it’s the shape of the lines that matters.)
From 2010 to 2018, the State’s birth numbers declined 5.3 percent. In the same period, Allegheny County’s numbers were stable, after rising and declining again – a statistically insignificant difference, end to end, of .2 percent.
We’re Doing Something Right in Allegheny County
Some time ago we asked Dr. Albena Ivanova, Associate Professor of Management, Robert Morris University, if she would analyze our data from 2010 to 2016, to see if the change in abortion ratios was statistically significant. She kindly did so, and came to this conclusion: “Controlling for the time effect (year) and contingency factors (all other counties), the results provide evidence that [the advertising work of] Vision for Life has a strong negative correlation to the abortion ratios in Allegheny County; in particular, the average abortion ratio drops by 40 after Vision for Life started (b = - 40.90, p < 0.001).” We now have two more years of data, and they confirm this conclusion: advertising pro-life pregnancy medical centers has a demonstrable “negative correlation” to abortion ratios.
Abortions to Non-Residents Surpass Those to Residents
Something else that was new in 2018 was the surpassing of abortions to residents of the County by abortions to non-residents.
Who are these non-residents? Some would come from neighboring counties: the total of abortions to those residing in Armstrong, Beaver, Butler, Fayette, Washington, and Westmoreland counties in 2018 was 1,245. The others would be those coming from further afield, and students who are living temporarily in the Pittsburgh area.
Speculating about those numbers
Abortion numbers for non-residents dropped from 2010 to 2013, but then bounced up again in 2017 and 2018. The numbers of abortions to women residing in counties neighboring Allegheny have been going down, so it may be that these increased numbers are young women from elsewhere who are studying in colleges from the Pittsburgh area. Why would more of them seek an abortion? Could it be that the defamation campaign against pregnancy medical centers conducted by pro-choice activists may have had an effect? They claimed that the centers are “fake clinics,” not staffed by medical professionals, that the information the centers give out is false, and that they are simply fronts for religious proselytizing. In fact, of course, the centers give out medically accurate information vetted by the centers’ medical directors, have professional staff, including sonographers, that meet all certification requirements, and they are sensitive to the spiritual needs of the women they serve without imposing on them. (For Heartbeat International’s response to the defamation, see PregnancyCenterTruth.com.) Our Facebook advertising to women has recently addressed the “fake clinic” claim obliquely, and we will continue to do so.
The bottom line for Allegheny County: the news is very, very good! Thank God!
What Age Group Is Having the Most Abortions?
Now, what do we learn about abortion and Pennsylvania as a whole? The final “first” mentioned above is the surprising shift in the age cohort having most of the abortions. Before 2018, the largest group was that 20–24 years old; in 2018, the largest group became the 25–29-year-olds.
This shift to older ages is a long-term trend, as we can see in this column chart. (The year 2018 is indicated in the light blue bar on the right of each collection of bars.)
So we see that those under 25 are mostly responsible for the decline in abortion numbers. Concurrent with that, however, there has been a much smaller increase in abortions among those 25–39. (There has been a slight decline as well among those who are 40 and older.)
A Change in Number of Previous Live Births, Too
When people think about abortion, they most often think of a college student: young, and with few responsibilities to others. And this is correct, to a point: many abortion-seekers fit this description. They are surprised to learn, however, that a majority of women who have an abortion have already had one child or more.
Concurrent with the change in the age cohorts, however, the number of women who have had no child, or one child, before having an abortion in Pennsylvania has been declining. At the same time, the number for those with two or more children is stable over time.
It is likely that most women with two or more children already are afraid that they won’t be able to manage financially in the future with a third or more.
First Abortions Declining Faster than “Repeat Abortions”
Just under half of abortions performed in Pennsylvania in 2018 were “repeat” abortions – the woman’s second, third, fourth, or fifth or more.
Both first-time abortion and “repeat” abortion numbers in Pennsylvania have been going down, but the first-time numbers have been going down faster.
This is good news. It means that the abortion business is in terminal decline. If any business has declining repeat business, but even faster declining first-time customers, they have to find ways to capture more of the market. This is exactly what Planned Parenthood is doing: making abortion a bigger part of their business by taking customers away from other abortion businesses. With current trends, however, even Planned Parenthood will run out of customers.
The Trend for Pennsylvania
The number of abortions performed in Pennsylvania in 2018 was not encouraging in itself: the 28,240 total was six more than were performed in 2017. The trend, however, is downward for abortion numbers and ratios for the State as a whole. That trend line is not as sharply downward as we have seen it in Allegheny County, largely because pro-life pregnancy help centers are not advertising as much as they should, especially in the urban areas. The more we can advertise, the faster we will see abortion numbers and ratios of abortions to live births fall.
Please donate today, to help us make those numbers fall faster.
Chris Humphrey has been involved in pro-life activity of one kind or another since the late 1970s, when he first looked at the subject of abortion in seminary in Canada. He has an undergraduate degree in English (University of Toronto), and M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in religious studies (McGill). He has had a varied career as a pastor, chaplain in a psychiatric hospital, editor of academic and instructional publications, semi-professional photographer, and home renovator. He is a husband of over 40 years to Edith (a Professor of New Testament), father to three girls, and grandfather to seventeen grandchildren. He lives and works in the Stanton Heights neighborhood of Pittsburgh.