Friday, November 23, 2012

Lies, Damned Lies, Statistics–and Newspapers

The ever-interesting news on America’s abortion culture includes a recent 5% drop in the abortion rate, “the biggest one-year decrease in at least a decade, perhaps because women are more careful to use birth control when times are tough, researchers say.” (“U.S. abortions fall 5%, biggest drop in a decade”).

The AP says, Some experts theorize that some women believed they couldn't afford to get pregnant. . . . ‘They stick to straight and narrow ... and they are more careful about birth control,’ said Elizabeth Ananat, a Duke University assistant professor of public policy and economics who has researched abortions.”

I’ve stared at these statements for a long time trying to make the logic come clearer, but without success.

Is this meant to say that when times are good women believe they can be careless about birth control because they can more easily afford – which? A baby? -- or an abortion?  Or is the experts’ statement that “some women believed they couldn't afford to get pregnant” meant to imply (because it does imply this whether it’s meant to or not) that “couldn’t afford to get pregnant” actually means “couldn’t afford to use abortion as last-gap birth control”?

And hasn’t the excuse of women who “cannot afford to have another child” been a staple rationalization for cheap and barely regulated abortion ever since forever? Then how is it that when more and more women have less and less money because times are tough, the abortion rate is going up instead of down?

At least the usual trend is still holding of unmarried Hispanic women getting rid of their unborn children at more than twice the rate that white women do, and black women at more than four times the rate.

It’s also still the case that the media makes helpful observations about  such as that the “majority of abortions are performed by the eighth week of pregnancy, when the fetus is about the size of a lima bean.”  The size of a lima bean, perhaps. But an abortion is still not the equivalent of destroying a lima bean.

According to the AP, “While experts estimate there are more than 1 million abortions nationwide each year, the CDC counted about 785,000 in 2009 because of incomplete reporting.” The AP then reports this related scientific anomaly: “The CDC identified 12 abortion-related deaths in 2009.”

While we’re pretty sure that the number of unreported deaths (“because of incomplete reporting”) was vastly larger in 2009 than 12, I see an even bigger problem with the CDC’s arithmetic.

Didn’t the CDC actually identify 785,012 abortion-related deaths in 2009?


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