By A. B. Hill

The results are in. Two recent reports reveal interesting statistics about Pennsylvania – the 2010 Census and the 2009 Abortion Statistics.

The 2010 Census figures show that 12,702,379 people currently call Pennsylvania home, a 3.4 percent increase since 2000. In 2009, 37,284 abortions were performed in Pennsylvania, a 3.9 percent decrease from 2008.

At first glance, these reports seem like good news. Pennsylvania is growing. We must have some economic vitality, even in these tough times. Abortions are down. Every life that is spared the tragedy of abortion is to be celebrated.

But let’s put these reports in a larger perspective. {{more}}

Pennsylvania’s population did grow in the last 10 years, but not enough to hold on to all of its congressional seats. Pennsylvania will lose one district. Fewer votes in Congress mean less influence in federal affairs.

A decrease in abortions is always encouraging, but 37,284 boys and girls died from abortion in 2009. We cannot overlook this sad truth. Abortion statistics have been reported in Pennsylvania since 1975, two years after Roe v. Wade legalized it. Adding the 2009 statistics brings the total of abortions in Pennsylvania since then to 1,538,544. That is about the population of Philadelphia.

The average size of congressional districts in Pennsylvania is about 650,000 people. Imagine if all 1.5 million aborted people had been born and allowed to grow up in Pennsylvania. If all of them remained here, they would equal more than two congressional districts.

Demographics measure a host of reasons why a state’s population goes up and down. Of course it is not as simple as merely being born; but it does demonstrate that abortion is a concern for the entire community.

Venerable Pope John Paul II spoke of the “communion of sin;” when a soul lowers itself through sin, it drags down the whole world. He said, “There is no sin, not even the most intimate and secret one, the most strictly inspanidual one, that exclusively concerns the person committing it” (Reconciliation and Penance, Apostolic Exhortation, 1984).

The spiritual ramifications of abortion are indeed great; but as citizens we must also consider the political and economic effect. As a community we must do all that we can to uphold the dignity of life. We must renew our vigilance to educate people that every single human life is sacred. We must be generous with programs that help those facing an unplanned pregnancy with support and encouragement. No woman should feel like she “must” choose abortion.

In 2009, the state-funded Real Alternatives program served more women seeking services for unplanned pregnancy than at any time in the program’s 14-year history, according to Kevin Bagatta, Real Alternatives CEO and president. A record-setting 11,145 pregnant women received services that may have helped them decide against abortion. These programs work. They are a worthwhile investment.

Political pundits will debate about the impact of one less congressional seat. Demographic experts will try to analyze Pennsylvania’s growth rate. We may never fully understand why and how our population rate changes, but one thing is certain: the strength of our state depends on the people who live here. Everybody counts – both born and the yet-to-be born who must be spared the horror of abortion.

If you or someone you know is facing an unexpected pregnancy call Real Alternatives at 1-888-LIFE AID for free, caring and completely confidential pregnancy and parenting support services.

Hill is communications director of the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference – the public affairs arm of Pennsylvania’s Catholic bishops and the Catholic dioceses of Pennsylvania.