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New York has the highest teen abortion rate in the country, but per capita pregnancy and abortion rates among 15- to 19-year-olds have steadily declined over the last two decades, according to a report this week.
Excluding miscarriages, nearly 60 percent of pregnancies among 15- to 19-year-olds in New York end in abortion, according to the Guttmacher Institute analysis. Local numbers suggest Monroe County's rate is slightly lower in recent years and dropping.
"There are at least two factors in play for the higher abortion rates in New York as compared to the rest of the country," said Laura Lindberg, senior research associate with the institute, a policy group based in Washington, D.C., that focuses on reproductive rights.
"The first would be a different set of cultural and social values, which are more supportive of the decision to end a pregnancy among teenagers," she said. "And the second would be greater access."
Gov. Andrew Cuomo and women's groups are pushing a bill to codify federal abortion rights into state law. Critics - particularly conservative groups and the Catholic church - said the controversial measure would further expand access to abortions in New York.
"One thing we don't need more of in New York is abortions, as these numbers clearly demonstrate," said Dennis Poust, spokesman for the state Catholic Conference. "It further shows the folly of Governor Cuomo's embrace of more abortions in New York."
Tara Sweeney, spokeswoman for NARAL Pro-Choice New York, said the state's relatively high abortion rates should not be used as an excuse to restrict abortion rights or as a factor in women's decisions.
"Every woman's situation is different. When a woman is facing the decision of how to proceed with pregnancy, she's talking with her health-care providers, she's talking with those closest to her about what's best for her and her family," Sweeney said. "She's not consulting the statewide data."