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Rabbi David Zwiebel and other NYC religious leaders call for new efforts to reduce the city’s abortions. “Abortion has become simply another method of birth control,” the rabbi said.             

At a news conference last week, Rabbi Zwiebel, Executive Vice President of Agudath Israel of America, Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan, Roman Catholic bishop of Brooklyn Nicholas A. DiMarzio and others said they were not seeking the abolition of abortion, but rather a reduction in the numbers.

The numbers are indeed startling. In 2009, a full 41% of all pregnancies in New York City - twice the national rate - were terminated by abortion, for a total of 87,274. Among the city’s black women, the rate was close to 60%.                

Rabbi Zwiebel asked: “Can anyone in good faith and conscience deny what theses statistics so clearly show – that in fact abortion has become just another method of birth control?  And can anyone deny, in good faith and conscience, that this drags us down as a humane, civilized society?”

Between 2000 – when there were 94,466 abortions - and 2009, well over 900,000 abortions were performed in New York City, Rabbi Zwiebel added.                

Archbishop Dolan said it was unlikely that abortions would disappear, but added, “We have to tell people what is happening here. I’m frankly embarrassed to be a member of a community where 41 percent of pregnancies are 

Rabbi Zwiebel was sharper: “We can all debate whether abortion is justified in certain circumstances, and precisely what those circumstances might be… But despite our different perspectives, we can all agree that there is something terribly wrong when abortion becomes just another method of birth control.”               

“Each of us may have his or her own ideas about how to reduce the abortion rate,” the rabbi said.  “From our perspective at Agudath Israel of America, and our experience in the Orthodox Jewish community, the best approach of all is to take steps to change the culture in which our young people are growing up – a culture that glorifies promiscuity and mocks responsibility – or at least shield our impressionable youth from the harmful influences of that culture.”

In Israel, alongside 150,000 Jewish births each year, the official number of annual abortions is between 19,000-20,000 (mostly Jewish), and a New Family poll shows another estimated 28,000 illegal abortions. The Efrat organization of Jerusalem, which works to reduce the number of abortions via education and offering financial help to mothers considering abortions for financial reasons, finds no comfort in the fact that these numbers are not as extreme as in New York.

Ruth Tidhar, MSW, who heads Efrat’s team of close to 3,000 volunteers, says, “The number of abortions has remained steady for years, despite the rising number of births, and despite the absorption of a million immigrants from the former Soviet Union where abortion is practically a form of birth control… That’s quite an achievement, and Efrat has a very important role in that.”

Tidhar told Israel National News that in addition to working with social workers around the country, Efrat received 30 “SOS calls” over the past three days alone regarding women considering abortions. Bottom line: “Efrat saves 4,000 babies a year,” Tidhar says, “but we have to do more.”                            

The New York Times reported that a dozen National Organization for Women members protested outside the NYC press conference, which was coordinated by the Chiaroscuro Foundation, a nonprofit group financed privately by investment banker Sean Fieler. He said his foundation plans to spend about $1 million this year to open counseling centers and give financial help to pregnant women.