Republican presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani prominently featured one such myth in his speech Oct. 20 to a group of social conservatives. The former New York City mayor stated that "we increased adoption by 133% over the eight years before I came into office. And we found that abortions went down by 18% during that period of time. I believe we can do that in the United States."But Giuliani's implied causality between these two statistics is unsupportable for this simple reason: The increases he cites were in the rate of adoptions of children out of New York City's foster care system, not in the rate at which women were continuing unwanted pregnancies and placing their infants for adoption rather than having abortions. Nothing in the data he cites indicates that there was any significant increase in the city's newborn relinquishment rate while he was mayor.
Meanwhile, we know that very few women actually place their infants for adoption. In the United States, fewer than 14,000 newborns were voluntarily relinquished in 2003 (the latest year for which an estimate is available), according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. That proportion -- just under 1% of all the children born to never-married women -- has remained constant for almost two decades.
As a just-published Guttmacher Institute study shows, abortion rates are extremely high in many countries where contraceptives are not readily available and contraceptive use is not encouraged, even though abortion is highly restricted in those places by law. And the world's lowest rates of abortion by far are found in Western Europe, where very few legal restrictions are placed on abortion but contraceptive use and comprehensive sex education are widespread.
Behind virtually every abortion is an unintended pregnancy. The sooner politicians accept that the only way to meaningfully achieve fewer abortions is to do better in helping women and their partners prevent unintended pregnancies in the first place, the better.
The last 2 paragraphs really get at what I think is a very important point for people to remember in the reproductive rights debate.