Giuliani presided over an extended decline in the number of abortions in New York, largely by doing nothing on the issue.
As pro-lifers mark the 34th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision, many wonder whether they could support former New York mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani for president despite his pro-choice views. While Giuliani’s statements on abortion make pro-lifers fret, they should find his record surprisingly reassuring.
“I don’t like abortion,” Giuliani said in South Carolina’s The State newspaper last November 21. “I don’t think abortion is a good thing. I think we ought to find some alternative to abortion, and that there ought to be as few as possible.”
Nevertheless, Giuliani’s pro-life critics point to his April 5, 2001, address at the National Abortion Rights Action League’s “Champions of Choice” luncheon in Manhattan.
“As a Republican who supports a woman’s right to choose, it is particularly an honor to be here,” Giuliani said. He added: “The government shouldn’t dictate that choice by making it a crime or making it illegal.”
During his unsuccessful 1989 mayoral campaign, Giuliani said, “I’d give my daughter the money for it [an abortion].” That September 1, Newsday’s transcript of Giuliani’s comments suggested a less strident tone.
“I have a daughter now,” Giuliani told TV’s Phil Donahue. “I would give my personal advice, my religious and moral views…I would help her with taking care of the baby. But if the ultimate choice of the woman — my daughter or any other woman — would be that in this particular circumstance, to have an abortion, I’d support that. I’d give my daughter the money for it.”
But did Giuliani’s mayoral deeds match such words?
According to the state Office of Vital Statistics, total abortions performed in New York City between 1993 (just before Giuliani arrived) and 2001 (as he departed) fell from 103,997 to 86,466 — a 16.86 percent decrease. This upended a 10.32 percent increase over the course of the eight years before Giuliani, with 1985 witnessing 94,270 abortions.
What about Medicaid-financed abortions? Under Giuliani, such taxpayer-funded feticides dropped 22.85 percent, from 45,006 in 1993 to 34,722 in 2001.
The abortion ratio also slid from 890 terminations per 1,000 live births in 1993 to 767 in 2001, a 13.82 percent tail-off. This far outpaced the 2.84 percent reduction from 1985’s ratio of 916 to 1993’s 890. While abortions remained far more common in Gotham than across America (2001’s U.S. abortion ratio was 246), they diminished during Giuliani’s tenure, as they did nationally.
The Centers for Disease Control reports that U.S. abortions fell from 1,330,414 in 1993 to 853,485 in 2001, a 35.85 percent decrease. However, University of Alabama political scientist Michael New tells me, “the national decline was so sharp because after 1997, three states, including California, quit reporting their abortions to the CDC.” Correcting earlier data by omitting the abortions in Alaska, California, and New Hampshire when calculating the national total prior to 1997, Professor New finds that 1993’s 1,001,769 abortions waned to 853,485 in 2001, a 14.8 percent fall-off.
“So, in percentage terms,” New adds, “the decline in abortions in New York City under Giuliani was greater than the national decline.”
(For a detailed chart analyzing these and other data, please click here.)
Giuliani essentially verbalized his pro-choice beliefs while avoiding policies that would have impeded abortion’s generally downward trajectory.
New York pro-lifers concede that Giuliani never attempted anything like what current Mayor Michael Bloomberg promulgated in July 2002. Eight city-run hospitals added abortion instruction to the training expected of their OB-GYN medical residents. Only conscientious objectors may refuse this requirement.
Giuliani could have issued such rules, but never did.
Interestingly enough, after Giuliani left, Medicaid abortions under Bloomberg increased 5.19 percent from 34,722 in 2001 to 36,523 in 2003.
Asked if he could cite any Giuliani initiative that advanced abortion, New York State Conservative Party Chairman Mike Long told me, “I don’t remember, and I don’t think so.” He added: “I never remember seeing him promote the issue, to my knowledge.”
“Off the top of my head, I cannot recall any instances when Mayor Giuliani’s and John Cardinal O’Connor’s different positions on abortion came to the fore while O’Connor was New York’s archbishop,” said Joseph Zwilling, communications director for the archdiocese of New York, a position he held under O’Connor.
“I like him a lot —- although he doesn’t share my particular point of view on social issues,” televangelist Pat Robertson said May 1, 2005, on ABC’s This Week. “He did a super job running the city of New York and I think he’d make a good president.
If Giuliani can sway Pat Robertson, can he attract other pro-lifers? Short of dizzying himself and others with a 180-degree reversal from a pro-choice to a pro-life posture, Giuliani should embrace parental-notification rules, so minors who seek abortions need their folks’ permission, as they now do for ear piercing. He should oppose partial-birth abortion, which even Democrats such as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada and liberal stalwart Patrick Leahy of Vermont have voted to prohibit.
Similarly, Giuliani should propose that Uncle Sam exit embryonic-stem-cell-research laboratories and instead let drug companies — not the government — finance such embryocidal experiments, if they must. He also could pledge to nominate constitutionalist judges skeptical of penumbras emanating outside Planned Parenthood clinics.
And, of course, Giuliani should remind Republican primary voters that on his watch, total abortions, taxpayer-funded Medicaid abortions, and the abortion ratio all went the right way: down.
This article originally appeared in The National Review Online on January 22nd, 2007. It is reprinted here with the author’s permission. Researcher Marco DeSena contributed to this article.