58% Increase in births in Pittsburgh!
The PA Abortion Report for 2021 has just come out, but the most astonishing thing about that year is found in the preliminary birth reports on the PA Department of Health’s site: We learn that there was a 58% increase in births in Allegheny County over 2020! In raw numbers, more than 7,000 more babies were born in 2021 than in 2020. This is so unprecedented, that it looks like it must be a mistake.
This is from the “preliminary” Health Department report, but in previous years the difference between the preliminary and final report has been negligible. There is nothing to indicate that the numbers are a mistake. Could this number include women from elsewhere? No, these women were residents of the County. Could it reflect an increase of immigrants in the County? Hispanic mothers were 13% of the State’s total (the same as 2020’s proportion), which would hardly explain an increase in births in Allegheny County of 58%.
On a personal note: my daughter recently had her baby at Magee Women's Hospital in Pittsburgh, and they told her to be ready at any time, including throughout the night, to come in for induction. This was different from her previous pregnancies, when scheduled births were only during the day. Does this reflect this higher birthing caseload? It would make sense.
So Allegheny County had more births than Philadelphia County in 2021!
I have looked back as far as 1990 for Allegheny County birth numbers, and none of them top this. The Health Department’s analysis of Allegheny County’s health stats show that, for 2016 to 2020, the “General fertility rate - ages 15 to 44” was lower than Pennsylvania’s as a whole. The birth number for 2021 is either a gross mistake, missed by the people who draw up the reports, or it is reason for demographers and statisticians to investigate and tell us what is going on.
And now on abortion . . .
Unfortunately, there was an increase in abortion numbers in the County in 2021, too, though this increase was not great.
The high number of births, however, has sent the ratios of abortions to births down 29%! (If births go up, but abortion numbers are relatively stable, the ratio of the latter to the former goes down.)
The rest of the State (besides Allegheny and Philadelphia counties) had a smaller increase in births, but nothing so dramatic as that in PA’s second-largest city.
A Little good news in philadelphia
In Philadelphia County, where abortion numbers are about 40% of all of Pennsylvania’s, that number dropped slightly from 2020 to 2021 – from 11,301 to 11,216, or less than 1%.
Philadelphia’s numbers fell, but because the County’s birth numbers fell by about 11%, as we saw above, the ratio of abortions climbed sharply to 632 per thousand births.
The slight decrease in abortion numbers in Philadelphia County is still good news, because the rest of the State, apart from Philly and Allegheny County, saw an increase in both numbers and ratios.
One last chart: Around half of the abortions in Allegheny County are to people who don't live in the County (non-resident abortions). In the last few years, that number has been going up. Does this mean we should see higher abortion numbers for residents in neighboring counties? I haven't looked at that yet. Does it mean an increase in women coming from Ohio? Perhaps. The chart below shows the total number of abortions broken down by residency (within or outside Allegheny County).
What do we learn from these statistics? That abortion numbers in Allegheny County rose 11.4%, while birth numbers increased 58%, is actually encouraging. Why? Because, while every death in an abortion is a terrible thing, we have to look at the big picture and be encouraged by what we can get: fewer deaths are simply better than more. With that high number of total pregnancies in the County, we would have expected about 4,867 abortions (using the 2020 abortion ratio of 253 per thousand); instead, it was 3,437. In other words, the abortion number was about 40% lower than we would expect, given that birth number. That difference means about 1,400 lives.
Philadelphia County's abortion numbers actually fell from 2020 to 2021, while the average numbers for the rest of PA (excluding Allegheny County, too) went up -- both raw numbers and abortion ratios. Could it be that pro-life advertising by Vision for Life and others in the County are having an effect? It is difficult to say, on the evidence of the State's statistics. We began advertising in the County in 2017. Abortion numbers have declined slightly since 2019, but hardly dramatically enough to justify a claim that our advertising did it. Again, however, we can look on the bright side: those numbers are still falling; fewer abortions means more children live to see the light of day.
Assuming that the birth numbers for Allegheny are correct, we are likely to see a high number of births for at least a few years to come -- a "baby boom." People who see other people like them with children will be inclined to imitate them. (We see the same phenomenon with the "social contagion" of transgenderism in high schools, or the fact that people who hang out with overweight people will tend to become overweight themselves.) As noted above, statisticians and demographers should be intrigued by this development, and their research should help us understand how it is that Allegheny County could stand out in this way.
Advertising pro-life pregnancy medical centers is still the best way to reduce abortion numbers, and ratios of abortions to births, right now. What we see in the numbers is encouraging, and good reason for donors to support our work advertising centers in Allegheny and Philadelphia counties. In a future post, I will look at what is happening in Cuyahoga County (Cleveland) in Ohio, where we have begun advertising using Facebook and Google Ads. Please pray for the success of our work, that many more moms will be grateful that they did the right thing.
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 45 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.