By Patricia Pitkus Bainbridge
Director, Respect Life Office
The “2004 Illinois Abortion Statistics” have been released by the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH). Normally, the “numbers” are available in the Fall, but there was a delay until the middle of December. Interestingly, the gentleman I spoke with at the IDPH told me the reason they were late was because “we don’t have enough staff.” Maybe if pre-born children were not being killed by procured abortion, there would be more consumers to generate more economic activity; hence, there would be more funds available to IDPH, and there would be more people to fill positions—something to think about.
According to IDPH, there were a reported 41,577 abortions committed on women in Illinois in 2004. Of that number, 38,151 were committed on women who lived in Illinois with 85 of “unknown” residence and 3,341 “out of state.” These statistics indicate that, at minimum, 104 pre-born babies from Illinois were killed by abortion each and every day in 2004.
In 2003, 42,228 abortions were reported: 38,700 on Illinois residents; 3,497 “out of state;” and 31 “unknown.” Comparing the statistics for both years, 2004 reflects an estimated drop of 651 abortions.
“51” rule still exists
As I have reported in past years, Illinois has an odd system for reporting procured abortions: the number of abortions is counted only if there are 51 aborting mothers from a particular county. If only 50 or less mothers from a particular county abort their babies, these abortions are not counted in the reported figures.
I recently wrote to the IDPH asking about the reasoning behind this “rule,” and was told: “This is due to a 1993 federal court settlement that stipulates that we cannot disclose any abortion information in any data field that totals less than 51.” When I asked for clarification, I was told that Planned Parenthood filed suit “protesting that the Department’s collection of abortion data was an invasion of a woman’s privacy. A temporary restraining order was issued in 1984 that prohibited the Department from mandating reporting of abortions. A settlement was reached between Planned Parenthood and the attorney general (Neil Hartigan) and the Department in 1993 that included the limit on statistics we [IDPH] can report.”
As a result of Planned Parenthood’s interference, the citizens of Illinois have been denied information that in no way invades a “woman’s privacy.” Once again, they used their financial coffers to get what it wanted—even though it makes no sense. The statistics on abortion do not list a woman’s name, so how could this possibly violate privacy? All other “vital statistics by county of residence” (births, marriage, infant mortality, and deaths) include numbers under 51. Why, then, is it not the same for abortion statistics? So far, no one has been able to provide a rational answer.
In 2003, there were 69 out of the 102 counties in Illinois listed as “less than or equal to 50.” In 2004, there were 71 counties in this category. That means we have no idea the number of women from 71 counties who may have procured abortions. For each county it could be any number between zero and 50. It also means that the number of reported statewide abortions could remain the same or be increased by a maximum of 3,621 (71 counties times 50).
This “51” rule coupled with the fact that there are advantages (financial and philosophical) for the abortionists to underreport the abortions, leave us with no way of knowing for certain just how many abortions are committed in Illinois. All we have is a minimum and we must never forget that each and every number represents the death of a human being — therefore, every number does make a difference.
How many in our own Diocese?
Here is the breakdown of the reported number (by county of residence of their mothers) of pre-born babies killed by abortion in our Diocese in 2004:
Boone— 90 (up from 78 in 2003);
DeKalb—164 (down from
171 in 2003);
from 612 in 2003):
McHenry—458 (up from 451 in 2003);
(down from 74 in 2003);
Stephenson—52 (down from 65 in
Whiteside—unknown;* (52 in
Winnebago—584 (down from 631 in 2003);
*could be as many as 50
Sadly, three of the nine counties with reported increases in abortion are in the Rockford Diocese: Boone, Kane, McHenry. Four (Carroll, JoDaviess, Lee, and Whiteside) are “unknown.” Whiteside clearly demonstrates the problem with the “51” rule—last year there were 52 mothers residing in Whiteside County who aborted and now we have no idea how many aborted in 2004—we certainly cannot assume there were none.
Thankfully, four counties (DeKalb, Ogle, Stephenson, and Winnebago) in the Diocese had a reported decrease in women aborting.
No agreement on why
The difficulty with statistics often lies with interpretation. Just what do these numbers mean?
It is generally accepted that the number of abortions in this country is on the decline—the only debatable issues appear to be by how much and why?
Commenting on the 2004 Illinois abortion statistics, Pam Sutherland, president of the Illinois Planned Parenthood Council, remarks: “We have better and better forms of birth control . . . We’ve really seen a drop since women have become aware of emergency contraception.”
Once again, Sutherland, a representative of the single largest committer of abortions in this country, is attempting to convey the false impression that so-called emergency contraception is reducing the number of abortions, when in reality, it often acts to cause a very early abortion. We have no way of knowing just how many early abortions are caused by emergency “contraception.”
Diana Yates from the Champaign-Urbana Public Health District remarked, “I would say that in order to properly understand any trends you need to look over a period of years, because numbers do fluctuate for a variety of reasons . . . If you look back from the late 1990s to the present you will see a downward trend in abortions . . . It isn’t easy to explain a trend like this . . . There are so many factors that could influence how many people that are getting abortions, from the age of the population to the number of abortion providers in the state or in a particular region. A lot of folks will travel elsewhere to get abortions, so it can skew the numbers one way or another too.”
While missing some authentic possibilities, at least Yates offered reasons other than the typical emergency contraceptive mantra of Planned Parenthood.
While we have no way of ascertaining the exact reasons for the reported decline in abortions in Illinois, there are some reasonable possibilities: 1) A majority of Americans are demonstrating an increased awareness of the humanity of the pre-born; 2) There is an increased appreciation for chastity. 3) Young people are increasingly coming to believe abortion is a “negative.” 4) Dedicated sidewalk counselors (who stand outside abortion mills regardless of the weather) are offering love and support and are dissuading women and girls from seeking abortion; 5) Pregnancy care centers are offering women life-affirming choices; 6) More women are coming forward to share their stories about the negative psychological affects of abortion.
While I certainly hope the IDPH 2004 statistics are reflective of a true decline in abortion in Illinois—and I do believe there is a national decline— we must never forget that even one abortion is one too many. In our own Diocese there are five pre-born babies killed each and every day. We simply must do whatever we can (in God-honoring ways) to change the hearts and minds of those in our spheres of influence so that the killing will stop.