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As Graphic Ads Start Airing, What’s the State of Abortion in the District?

A Republican candidate is airing anti-abortion ads on local stations, but how many abortions take place in DC?

Last week, Politico's Ben Smith reported that Missy Smith, a Republican candidate aiming to unseat Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, would begin airing campaign ads featuring images of aborted fetuses on local television stations on Monday. Albritton, which owns both Politico and WJLA, determined that the company has legal grounds to air the ads later at night, but not to refuse to air them altogether. The Washington Post's Mike DeBonis reported that the District's Republican Party asked Smith not to run because rather than focusing on substantive issues, Smith bills herself as in "'the belly of the beast,' Washington D.C. on the ballot running against big government, pro-child killing, same sex marriage incumbent Eleanor Holmes Norton." (Both stories provide links to the ads, as well as warnings to readers.)

Smith's ads are an undeniably emotional appeal. But if you're looking for basic facts on abortion in the District and the region, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Division of Reproductive Health actually keeps statistical data on reported abortions, and has since 1979. The statistics don't include all abortions, just ones doctors report performing, but they provide at least a broad outline of how many abortions happen in the country, and how many happen in each state.

In 2006, the last year for which data is available, doctors reported performing 2,692 abortions in the District. By contrast, that same year, doctors performed 27,349 abortions in Virginia. And Maryland doctors performed 9,530 abortions.

Of abortions in the District, the greatest number were for women between the ages of 20 and 24, though in 2006, doctors performed 20 abortions for girls younger than 15 and 82 for women 40 or older. The vast majority of abortions performed in the District in 2006, 1,783, occurred in the first eight weeks of gestation. 294 occurred between nine and ten weeks of gestation, 165 between 11 and 12 weeks, 226 between 13 and 15 weeks, 214 between 16 and 20 weeks and none were performed more than 20 weeks into gestation.

White women had 565 of the District's 2,692 abortions, black women had 1,413 abortions, and Hispanic women had 370 abortions. 268 abortions were provided to married women, and 2,412 to women who were not legally married.

There are at least four offices in the District that perform abortions. Dr. Nathan Bobrow at the Washington Hospital Center performs terminations up to 20 weeks into a pregnancy, the Potomac Family Planning Center performs abortions up to 17 weeks into a pregnancy, Planned Parenthood performs abortions at its Downtown Center, and the Washington Surgi-Clinic provides abortions as late as through the second trimester of pregnancy.

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