Clergy Demand Answers as Latest Figures Show 41% of Pregnancies in New York Were Ended by Abortion in 2009

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Some of New York City’s most prominent religious leaders are making a public demand for answers as to why decades of social welfare programs aimed at making abortions a rarity have not only failed, but failed so dramatically.

The leaders — spanning Catholic, Jewish, and Protestant clergy — issued their demand at a press conference today at Manhattan. They said they are galvanized by new data showing that some 87,000 abortions were performed in New York City in 2009, a figure that accounts for 41% of all pregnancies across the five boroughs that year. That 41% rate is nearly double the national average.

“The Statue of Liberty should be the symbol of this city, not the grim reaper,” declared the archbishop of the Archdiocese of New York, the Most Rev. Timothy Dolan.

The press conference drew leaders of the Catholic archdiocese, which has traditionally played a leading role in the pro-life movement, and a range of oher leaders, including the executive president of the Agudath Israel of America, Rabbi David Zweibel, whose organization represents fervently orthodox Jews and is affiliated with the Council of Torah Sages; the Reverend Michael Faulkner, founder of the New Horizon Church in Harlem; and Leslie Diaz, spokeswoman of Democrats for Life.

The group noted that the abortion statistics point to a startling trend: older women utilize easily available abortion services as one of many birth control options open to them. Abortion, it seems, is no longer just the scourge of the frightened teenage mother.

Just 10% of all pregnancies in New York City were with teen-age mothers. That age group accounted for 16% of abortions citywide in 2009. But more than half the abortions were with women in their 20s, with another 30% of abortions among women in their 30s and 40s. Nearly 15% of abortions were performed on married women.

Decades of city-mandated sex education courses and condom-distribution programs in public schools have not only done little to reduce the number of abortions here, but have actually served to celebrate the profane and to promote abortion as simply another form of birth control, according to Rabbi Zwiebel.

As of today, a 15-year-old girl in New York City cannot get her ears pierced or see an R-rated motion picture without parental consent. Yet she can legally and readily receive an abortion without such consent, according to Health Department officials.

“We’ve been hearing for many years from pro-choice supporters that abortion should be made safe, legal, and rare. If that’s the goal, we’ve clearly, abysmally failed, especially here in New York City,” Rabbi Zwiebel said.

More alarming still, say the religious leaders, are the abortion rates among certain groups. In 2009, far more African-American women had abortions (40,798) than births (27,405) for an abortion rate of 60%. Among non-Hispanic black teen-agers, there were 2,791 abortions for every 1,000 live births in 2009 — a 74% abortion rate.

“The leading cause of death among African Americans is abortion, and … New York City has the highest abortion rates in the world,” Reverend Faulkner said.

Officials from the not-for-profit Chiaroscuro Foundation, an advocacy group that supports alternatives to abortion, gathered the religious leaders in a Midtown press conference yesterday during which the group pledged $1 million toward reducing the number of abortions in 2011 by providing assistance to pregnant women. Foundation officials said that the city does not separately itemize abortion data in its Department of Health statistics, nor does it release the information in a timely manner. The data for 2009 did not appear until this month.

It’s been more than a quarter century since John Cardinal O’Connor made in 1984 a now-famous pledge that every woman facing a difficult pregnancy would be provided free, high-quality, and confidential help from the Roman Catholic Archdiocese.

“This is the first time in my happy 21 months as a New Yorker that I am embarrassed to be one,” Archbishop Dolan said. “This New York community, which prides itself on its gritty sensitivity to those in need, is letting down the smallest and most helpless of them all.” Archbishop Dolan said that he would continue to honor Cardinal O’Connor’s pledge to helping pregnant women in need.

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