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Twisting the statistics in defense of abortion

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Getting Desperate at Guttmacher

Twisting the statistics in defense of abortion

As the chances of meaningfully protecting unborn American children and their deceived mothers continues to increase, the pro-abortion side grows ever more desperate in its defense of the abortion-on-demand policy imposed on the country by the Supreme Court in Roe v. Wade (1973). Some of their tactics are laughable, such as those employed to smear Samuel Alito before he became a Supreme Court justice. Some are plausible and insidious, such as the latest report from the Guttmacher Institute, the supposedly scientific research division of Planned Parenthood.

One of the least regulated in the nation, the abortion industry needs much better reporting requirements and examination by those bodies charged with overseeing the health care sector. In the meantime, we must rely on Guttmacher and other such organizations with the funds to study abortion in the United States. Yet the latest report has holes so big and assertions so far from being scientific that its authors should be ashamed.

It’s true that the institute does not really hide its bias. “The institute’s mission is to protect the reproductive choices of all women and men in the United States and throughout the world,” it says. “It is to support their ability to obtain the information and services needed to achieve their full human rights, safeguard their health and exercise their individual responsibilities in regard to sexual behavior and relationships, reproduction and family formation.”  It doesn’t say so explicitly, but that clearly means that the institute is pro-abortion, pro-contraception, and pro-homosexual. And it is accurately described as pro-abortion, not pro-choice, because it advocates taxing Americans to pay for abortion.

The very first sentence of the report, “Abortion in Women’s Lives,” released May 4, implicitly links the abrogation of the natural operation of women’s bodies to social progress: “The ability to determine whether and when to bear children has become a prerequisite for women’s full participation in modern life.”  The report also contains self-parodying statements such as, “In short, most women who choose to have an abortion are not opposed to accepting parental responsibility.”

“Abortion in Women’s Lives” uses the common statistical chicanery of grossly exaggerating the number of abortions taking place in the United States before Roe. “In the 1950s and 1960s, it is estimated that 200,000 to 1.2 million women each year had illegal abortions in the United States, many of which were under unsafe conditions,” it says. “According to another estimate, which extrapolated data from North Carolina, 699,000 illegal abortions occurred nationwide in 1955 and 829,000 illegal procedures were performed in 1967.”

As Ramesh Ponnuru pointed out on National Review Online the day the report came out, “The upper end of that estimate isn’t remotely plausible. The number of reported abortions in 1974, when Roe had made them all legal, was 899,000. The number in 1975 was 1 million. Are we really supposed to believe that the number of abortions fell when abortion became legal?  (And then immediately started to climb for a decade and a half?)  As the pro-life lawyer Clark Forsythe has pointed out, the relatively low number of legal abortions in California after its 1967 liberalization makes even the low end of the estimate look excessive” (parentheses in original).

In a section called “The Long-Term Safety of Abortion,” the Guttmacher report does a great disservice to women around the world. Prima facie, abortion would carry risks of health problems. It is, after all, the violent, artificial interruption of a major natural process. Yet the report continues to dismiss the evidence tying abortion to decreased future fertility, breast cancer, and severe psychological consequences even while hurriedly acknowledging that second trimester abortions can “pose some increased risk of complications in future pregnancies.”  The greatly increased risk of breast cancer for women whose first pregnancy ends in induced abortion is well-established, and I won’t go into the details yet again in this article. (One source of information on this topic is available from the Coalition on Abortion/Breast Cancer.)

Perhaps most egregiously, the report simply ignores the best study done on the link between abortion and mental illness, released earlier this year by Professor David M. Fergusson and other New Zealand scientists. Since this study was conducted by pro-abortion experts who avoided methodological pitfalls, perhaps the Guttmacher Institute thought best to pretend it doesn’t exist. The study found far higher rates of severe depression and anxiety among young women who had abortions than young women who did not, and that the abortions preceded the mental illnesses.

The report also notes that “placing children for adoption has never been common and has been declining in recent years.”  This simple, pro-life solution to unintended pregnancy gets a small sidebar in the report, and should be getting a lot more from government policymakers as married couples wait years to adopt infants.

The report authors point out that higher rates of unintended pregnancy tend to lead to higher rates of abortion. That is fair enough. Yet it concludes that the only way to reduce untended pregnancies is to increase funding for contraception use. Not only has the dramatic worldwide rise in abortions in the last few decades coincided with the dramatic worldwide rise in contraceptive availability, but even the report notes that half of all unintended pregnancies in the United States happen to women currently using contraception. As for those who become pregnant unintentionally while not using contraception, the explanation does not lie in the Marxoid implications of the report, which blames lack of government funding for poor women’s and “women of color’s” higher rates of unintended pregnancies. Contraception is far too inexpensive, easily available, and propagandized in favor of for there to be any explanation other than this:

The couple in question didn’t want to use it, or couldn’t be bothered to obtain any. The facile availability of abortion must be a contributing factor to this lackadaisical attitude, here and in those foreign countries where abortion is technically illegal but still widely accessible.

Of course, the report fails to address the contraceptive mentality, the idea that the human body is a commodity for use, that children are something to be avoided even if adoption is an option, that sex should be without consequences. It is this mentality, this reliance on cheap sexual pleasure and anti-child procreation avoidance, that makes abortion inevitable when contraception fails. If respect for the human body’s natural powers, for the opposite sex, for the generation of new life are restored to society, abortion will wither away.

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Written By

Mr. D'Agostino, former associate editor of HUMAN EVENTS, is vice president for Communications at the Population Research Institute.

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