Week 3: CDC Stats, County Courthouses, and The Cider House Rules

After a brief leave of absence from researching last week, this week proved to be a great opportunity to get back into the swing of things and to start investigating a side of abortion I have not yet gotten into: its epidemiology. Epidemiology refers to the who, what, when, where, why, and how of a medical matter, and those pertaining to abortion are a particularly diverse and complex set.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has a great online database of “surveillance” data collected over the past 40 or so years, mapping the distribution, incidence, and characteristics of abortion and those seeking it in the U.S. I have begun analyzing these statistics in the hopes of creating a comprehensive visual (maybe a graph of some sort) to present to a general audience, highlighting the trends and oddities of our history that this data reflects. For instance, when baby boomers (our parents) began reproducing, there was a clear dip in the ratio of U.S. abortions; that is to say, the number of abortions per 1,000 live births. There were so many live births happening that the number of abortions being performed was easily overwhelmed. Interesting how math actually proves itself useful in the real world sometimes!

The rest of the research I did this week was a hodgepodge of trips to the Fairfax County Courthouse and to the Library of Congress again, as well as two incredibly informative interviews with reps from the Planned Parenthood of Metropolitan D.C. and the Planned Parenthood of Southeast Virginia. I also began reading The Cider House Rules, an iconic book about the landscape surrounding abortion in America during the 1930’s and ’40’s, and the risks of unsafe, criminal abortion. It is becoming clear that information on the topic of abortion is best gained in many forms — be they literary, statistical, legislative, or via interview — and I am more excited than ever to see what the end product(s) of this research will be.