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U.S. Rep. Trent Franks, R-Ariz., has been active in the nation’s capital recently, lobbying for legislation he introduced that would ban abortions based on race or gender.
Franks presented a series of abortion statistics at an April 14 House subcommittee hearing on the legislation, called the Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act, or PRENDA.
"Today in America, between 40 and 50 percent of all African-American babies, virtually 1-in-2 are killed before they are born, which is a greater cause of death for African-Americans than heart disease, cancer, diabetes, AIDS and violence combined," Franks said.
The congressman’s matter-of-fact claim intrigued us, so we decided to check it out.
Franks’ spokeswoman, Destiny Edwards, referenced multiple reports from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Guttmacher Institute, a research group that supports abortion rights, for his claim.
Because Franks is talking specifically about abortion, we did not account for babies who may die as a result of domestic violence, for example, before birth.
Guttmacher notes that African-American women accounted for an estimated 37 percent of the 1.21 million total abortions performed in 2008. That would in theory translate to 447,700 abortions. That same year, according to the CDC, 670,809 African-American babies were born.
But Guttmacher’s abortion data is based on surveys with women and abortion providers. It is not a complete picture.
Plus, total abortions dropped to about 1.06 million in 2011, but Guttmacher doesn’t have updated demographic breakdowns, Guttmacher Institute spokeswoman Rebecca Wind said.
The CDC’s data is similarly imperfect.
As we’ve noted in a previous abortion claim from PolitiFact Florida, the CDC does not have a complete record of abortions. Most states require hospitals, facilities and physicians to report all abortions to a central health agency.
But not every state reports this abortion data to the feds -- and they’re not required to either. The data also leaves out more than 20 states, including Arizona, California and Florida.
According to the CDC’s 2012 data, the most recent available, the abortion ratio for non-Hispanic African-American women was 435 abortions per 1,000 African-American live births. But Nikki Mayes, a CDC spokeswoman, said that interpreting the ratio as a percent wouldn't be fair. Live births exclude stillbirths and miscarriages. According to the Mayo Clinic, 10 to 20 percent of all pregnancies end in miscarriage.
The second half of Franks’ claim, comparing other causes of death, is even more complicated.
CDC data is split among leading causes of death between African-American men and women.
For African-American men, the leading causes of death are heart disease (24.1 percent), cancer (23.3 percent) and accidents (5.5 percent). Diabetes accounts for 3.9 percent of deaths and HIV, not AIDS, makes up 2.1 percent.
For African-American women, it's heart disease (24.1 percent), cancer (22.6 percent) and stroke (6.4 percent). Diabetes among African-American women account for 4.6 percent of deaths, while accidents make up 2.8 percent of deaths.
Franks said, "Today in America, between 40 and 50 percent of all African-American babies, virtually 1-in-2 are killed before they are born."
Data suggests a disparity in the number of abortions performed on African-American women than other races.
But saying that "between 40 and 50 percent of all African-American babies" are aborted goes beyond the limits of the data. Federal data doesn’t account for all 50 states, and fails to factor in pregnancies that end in a miscarriage.
Private data is based on surveys and is years out of date.
We rate Franks’ claim as Mostly False.
U.S. House of Representatives, "H.R._ the Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act (PRENDA) of 2016," April 14, 2016
The Huffington Post, "Congresswoman of color denounce ‘racist’ abortion bill," April 14, 2016
PolitiFact Florida, "Florida Republican says abortion providers have 'reduced our black population by more than 25 percent since 1973," April 25, 2013
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "Abortion Surveillance - United States, 2012," accessed April 20, 2016
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "Leading causes of death by age group, Black females - United States, 2010," accessed April 21, 2016
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "Leading causes of death by age group, race/ethnicity males - United States, 2010," accessed April 21, 2016
Guttmacher Institute, "Reasons U.S. women have abortions: Quantitative and qualitative perspectives," accessed April 21, 2016
Guttmacher Institute, "Abortion and women of color: The bigger picture," Aug. 6, 2008
Guttmacher Institute, "Changes in Abortion Rates between 2000 and 2008 and Lifetime Incidence of Abortion," accessed April 21, 2016
Guttmacher Institute, "Abortion Reporting Requirements," accessed April 22, 2016
Guttmacher Institute, "Induced abortion in the United States," accessed April 25, 2016
National Vital Statistics Reports, "Births: Final Data for 2008," accessed April 25, 2016
Mayo Clinic, "Miscarriage," accessed April 25, 2016
The Atlantic, "Abortion’s racial gap," Sept. 22, 2014
Interview with Franks spokeswoman Destiny Edwards, April 18, 2016
Interview with CDC spokeswoman Nikki Mayes, April 21-25, 2016
Interview with Guttmacher Institute spokeswoman Rebecca Wind, April 21-25, 2016
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