The law passed in New York State on July l, 1970, leaves the decision to have an abortion up to the woman and her doctor within the first 24 weeks of pregnancy. By approximately February 1971, 97 ,000 abortions were performed in New York City, thus making it the “abortion capital” of the United States. Since there are no residency requirements, 64 percent of the abortions were carried out on out of towners. At first, the absence of residency requirements seemed to beg for disaster. But as Gordon Chase, the city’s Health Service Administrator, said, “The catastrophe many fore saw a year ago failed to materialize. We have been able to serve our residents as well as a substantial number of out-of-state women.”
In the first year, a total of 207,000 was projected for the entire state. It is impossible to determine how man abortions were performed in physician’s private offices. Before July l, 1970, it was estimated that 40,000 to 75,000 residents of New York City would want abortions. By the end of July 30 1971, about 60,000 abortions were performed. This gives an abortion rate of 360 per 1,000 live births, which is comparable to that in certain foreign countries (Yugoslavia, Poland, or Czechoslovakia) having liberal abortion laws.
It should be noted that the abortion rate appears to have lowered the birthrate significantly. But as yet no reliable comparative statistics are available. New York City health officials find that women now seek abortions
early, when the operation is the safest and least costly. In the first months, 68.6 percent of the abortions were performed before the 13th week of pregnancy. Subsequently, more than 80 percent were early abortions.
Medical complications declined from a rate of 12.4 for every 1,000 abortions to a low of 8.7 for each 1,000 by mid June (1971). Non white and poor women are now getting abortions under the auspices of Medicaid. Thus, the need for illegal abortions has declined tremendously. Hospitals in New York City are treating far fewer victims of botched abortions than they did in years past. Maternal mortality—in which criminal abortions have always been a major factor—is now at a record low of 2.3 per each 10,000 live births, compared with 5.2 for each 10,000 for the year before abortions were legalized. Nonprofit groups and a rapid increase in the number of abortion clinics have reduced the cost of early abortions from a high of $600 to $125. Late abortion costs have ropped from $800 to $400.