Arizona congressman errs on abortion claim

Posted at 5:54 PM, Apr 26, 2016
and last updated 2016-04-27 11:58:34-04

Arizona congressman Trent Franks has been active in the nation’s capital recently, lobbying for legislation he introduced that would ban abortions based on race or gender.

Critics say the proposed ban is "stereotyping," as women seek abortions for a multitude of reasons, such as financial constraints.

Franks presented a series of abortion statistics at an April 14 Congressional 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.

"Today in America, between 40 and 50 percent of all African-American babies...are killed before they are born..."

We decided to put Franks' claim through a PolitiFact truth-check. 

Limited data

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. 

But Guttmacher’s abortion data is based on surveys with women and abortion providers. It is not a complete picture.

The CDC’s data is similarly imperfect.

The agency does not have a complete record of abortionsMost 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.

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. 

Our ruling

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.


For the complete fact-check, visit our news partner, PolitiFact Arizona