The Chiaroscuro Foundation recently put up on its website an interactive map that displays the abortion statistics for residents of every zip code in the City of New York. I recommend that everyone in the City look up their neighborhood — you’ll definitely learn something.
I looked at my own neighborhood. I’ve lived my whole life in a neighborhood split between Yonkers and the Bronx. The Bronx part is Woodlawn, which shares the 10470 zip with a small portion of Wakefield. Woodlawn is considered to be a very good neighborhood — solidly middle class, dominated by Irish immigrants (some of long-standing, some more recently). Wakefield is a largely African-American and West-Indian neighborhood, but also mainly middle class and blue-collar.
The zip code is two-thirds white, with the remainder being a mixture of African-American, West Indian, and Latino. Over 75% of adults have a high school education or better, and 20% have at least a bachelor’s degree. Both neighborhoods have economic problems — unemployment is pretty high thanks to the crash of the construction industry, and the poverty rate is not great (although far better than the rest of the Bronx). We have four good schools — a Catholic elementary school and high school, a Lutheran school, and two public elementary schools.
There are lots of vibrant families and children, and lots of churches — Woodlawn alone has five churches. We even have a convent of the Sisters of Life.
But the abortion statistics in my neighborhood are horrible.
There were 267 pregnancies in this zip code in 2009, the most recent year reported. 115 of them ended in abortion. That’s a 43% abortion ratio — even worse than the overall number for New York City.
There are lots of reasons for this tragedy. I am convinced that a great number of abortions happen because a mother in crisis thinks that she won’t be supported by the baby’s father, their families, or the community. This abortion ratio in my neighborhood is wake-up call to our families, churches, and community.
So what can we do? Preaching in the churches and teaching in the home are obviously the foundation. We also need to promote chastity, so that women don’t have unexpected pregnancies, especially out of wedlock. We need to make sure that every woman knows that she is not alone, that she will have the support of her family and community to make the choice for life, or that she can turn to one of the many pregnancy support centers in our area. We need to make sure that more women know that help is out there, from Catholic Charities Maternity Bureau, and from the wonderful Visitation Mission of the Sisters of Life.
In the end, it will come down to decisions made by individuals and families. And for that, much grace is needed. Mary, Mother of Life, please pray for women contemplating abortion in my neighborhood, and everywhere. And obtain for me the grace I need to be there for the women in my life and my neighborhood, if they ever are in crisis.