87,273 abortions sounds like a lot. But is it? How does New York compare to the rest of the country when it comes to abortion?

There are three commonly used methods of comparing abortion incidence across populations. The first and most widely used is the abortion rate. This is the number of abortions per 1,000 women of reproductive age, 15-44. Using New York State Population data from 2008 and abortion data from 2009, the New York City abortion rate in 2009 was 46.5.1 In 2005, the latest year for which data are available, the US abortion rate was 19.4 according to the CDC.2

The second method is what the CDC calls the abortion ratio. When the CDC says abortion ratio, they mean the number of abortions per 1,000 live births. In 2009 NYC had a CDC abortion ratio of 688. The US had a CDC abortion ratio of 292 in 2005.

The third method, which was included in the Guttmacher Institute’s most recent report on abortion statistics for 2005, is what they call the abortion ratio. When the Guttmacher Institute’s researchers say abortion ratio, what they mean is “abortions per 100 pregnancies ending in abortion or live birth,” which is to say, abortions as a percentage of all pregnancies excluding miscarriages. In 2009, NYC had a Guttmacher abortion ratio of 41%. The US had a Guttmacher abortion ratio of 23% in 2005.

That means that in New York City, 41% of all pregnancies except those which ended in miscarriage ended in abortion. In the Bronx, the abortion ratio reaches 48%. By all three measures, NYC has rates far beyond the national average. But the abortion ratio puts it in perspective: in parts of NYC, women choose to end nearly half of their pregnancies with abortion.

1 All New York City abortion data for 2009 are taken from the Summary of Vital Statistics 2009, http://www.nyc.gov/html/doh/downloads/pdf/vs/2009sum.pdf. For 2008 NYC population data, see Vital Statistics of New York State 2008, Table 1a, http://www.nyhealth.gov/nysdoh/vital_statistics/2008/table01a.htm

2 For 2005 CDC data on abortions and population of women of reproductive age, see National Vital Statistics Reports, Volume 58, Number 4, “Estimated Pregnancy Rates for the United States, 1990-2005: An Update,” especially Table 1, p. 4, Numbers and rates of pregnancies and pregnancy outcomes and number of women: United States, 1976–2005, http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nvsr/nvsr58/nvsr58_04.pdf