Tuesday, July 19, 2005


Like Bill Clinton, I believe abortion should be safe, legal, and rare. Putting aside how many that should be, if you had asked me to guess this morning, I would have said that there are about 100,000 per year. I was off by a factor of ten.

Turns out there were about 1,293,000 in 2002 (via AS).

This turns into an incidence of 20.9 abortions per 1000 women aged 15-44 per year. I have no idea why the statistics are presented in this fashion. It would be more accessible to present them as 2.1% per year, which translates to a 50% reproductive lifetime risk of having an abortion.^1 Compare that to the 13% total rifetime risk of developing breast cancer (NCI).

We watched a video in class today^2 that compared embryonic development of different vertebrates, showing how wildly different structures have a common origin. It struck me that all the embryos that were presented in this rather upbeat, positive video were, in fact, dead and never going to complete the developmental journey that they were being used to celebrate. I'm grateful to the embryos and their families for giving me the opportunity to see this, and I thought the video was outstanding overall, but that twinge of sadness...

^1 You wanna quibble over statistics? Ok. Not likely to be productive, but...
Quibble 1: Spock suspects that the eggs are more in one basket, i.e. the same women keep having abortions. This seems to be the case in New York City, but overall it looks like most women are first timers.

Quibble 2: Harpo asserts that relatively few abortions are done on upper/middle class white women. Clearly, gender is a key factor in who gets abortions. Minorities are over-represented. Those who are in poverty or near poverty receive about 60% of abortions.

Clearly, there are more abortion statistics that I can keep track of, but even if 'only' 1 in 3 women will have an abortion, that's still a ton of people.

^2 I believe the video was "Oddesy of Life" from NOVA

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