12/19/2009 10:48 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

New Health Bill Limits Abortions in Red States -- Where, Surprise, They Are Common

No matter how you feel about the pro-choice/anti-choice issue, it's always been difficult to examine data on the number of legal abortions in the U.S. on a state-by-state level. Recently The Guardian newspaper's DataBlog performed a real service in pulling together the latest numbers (from 2005) on the number of abortions state-by-state.

They both confirm certain things you might expect (abortions tend to happen more often in big, blue states) but also prove surprising (the large number of red states where anti-choice is strongest but where the abortion procedure, it turns out, is quite common).

I posted about this not long ago but it gains new significance today in light of the Democrats' health care plan now going forward in the Senate -- after leadership agreed to Ben Nelson's red-states-can-crack down on abortions amendment. Here's how The New York Times describes this today:

Mr. Reid's amendment includes major restrictions on abortion that were intended to win support for the bill from Mr. Nelson. Under Mr. Reid's proposal, health insurance plans are not required or forbidden to cover abortion services, but there is a major exemption that would give states power to prohibit abortion coverage in the insurance markets, or exchanges, where most health plans would be sold.

Even in small, conservative, allegedly anti-choice Kansas, for example, there were over 10,000 legal abortions in 2005. In deep-red Utah, which had a relatively low rate, there were over 3,500 in that one year, or about 10 per day.

Then there is this number: 233. That's the number of abortions per 1,000 live births nationally.

Actually, the national percentage is probably even higher, as The Guardian was unable to secure numbers for California. Even so, that 233/1000 is the lowest number in these stats since 1973. The national total hit 820,000 legal abortions in 2005 year and has not topped 1 million since 1997. The numbers all come from the Centers for Disease Control.

These red or reddish states have high numbers for frequency of abortion, just under the national "233/1000" average: Alabama, Alaska, Georgia, Maine, Montana, New Mexico, Tennessee, Texas.

Right at or above the norm: Georgia, Kansas, Nevada, North Carolina, Virginia.

The smaller, redder states also tend to have the highest percentage of mothers under the age of 19 electing to have abortions. Among the leaders: Montana, Alaska, North Dakota. Vermont.

States with the highest rates of legal abortions, at 400 per 1000 lives births or greater: New York, then Florida and Rhode Island. The rate for New York City is over 700/1000.

Greg Mitchell's latest book is "Why Obama Won"--and go here to see trailer for his Web series "An Incompleat History of Rock 'n Roll." He is editor of Editor & Publisher.