Same job, different uniform.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

I have been quarreling.

At Dakota Women, pro-lifers have been accused of being dishonest about their motivation behind opposing abortion.

As evidence of this dishonesty, the author has linked to this article, that cites this report. (This is only the abstract. You have to register--free--if you want to read the study).

ADDED: I suspect few of my readers are going to read this whole post (not even my adversary at Dakota Women can be bothered to do it). So why don't the rest of you just click on that link above and go read our debate.

Before I proceed, I want to make this very clear: I believe that women have and will continue to have abortions, regardless of its legality. This does not mean that I do not want to reduce the number of abortions, or that I don't care about those women injured by the procedure. But that is not an argument against outlawing abortion on demand.

I hope you can follow along, because this is interesting.

The study in question, authored by Gilda Sedghat at the Guttmacher Institute, (visit their site--I don't have to tell you where they stand on the abortion issue) makes the claim that abortion rates are dropping in countries where the procedure is legalized. It goes beyond its research to assert that the numbers are dropping because abortion is legal in those countries.

Below is their definition of an unsafe abortion. You will see that in nations with restrictive abortion laws every abortion is defined as unsafe. Naturally, then, they can say that restrictive abortion laws lead to unsafe abortions, because they have simply defined it that way.
"Abortions done either by people lacking the necessary skills or in an environment that does not conform to minimum medical standards, or both. These include (a) abortions in countries where the law is restrictive and (b) abortions that do not meet legal requirements in countries where the law is not restrictive."
If you don't read anything else, I hope you read that paragraph!

The paragraphs in the block quotes below show that the researchers are using estimated data. A couple points about the data.

First, every time they can they estimate the number of abortions up. Sometimes this is done to an extraordinary degree: for example they estimate Bangladesh stats up by 300%. Because the nations with restrictive laws also tend not to collect abortion data, their estimates influence the statistics from those nations most. So regarding those places with restrictive abortion laws, the researchers have estimated the abortion rate up as high as they can.

They then say that the laws cause the high abortion rates, when it is more likely their estimation methods. One should note that the ideological tendencies of the researchers are obvious, so it is reasonable to doubt their estimations. If I was quoting from a report by LifeNews, pro-choicers would do the same.

"For two-thirds of countries for which official reports were available, and in which abortion is considered safe, the reports were deemed complete and the data were not adjusted. In the remaining countries, the average correction factor was 1•4 (which corresponds to an inflation of the official estimate by 40%). The correction factors ranged from 1•05 (USA) to 3•0 (Bangladesh).

In countries for which surveys showed more abortions than were counted in the official statistics, we deemed the survey estimates to be more complete, since even they are known to undercount abortions.

The findings presented here provide new estimates of abortion incidence at the worldwide and regional levels, which had not been updated since 1995. In the face of a dearth of information for many countries, particularly those in which abortion laws are highly restrictive, this study drew on all available sources of information and used systematic and consistent methods to estimate abortion incidence."
Beyond all this, they do not consider alternative variables. I am not a researcher, and I haven't taken stats, but my husband suggests that a solid research program would collect data on all variables likely to influence abortion rates (of which legality would be one variable. I can think of others). The researcher would then run some sort of statistical analysis to see which variables are statistically significant.

Have these researchers done the statistical analysis requried to make such a broad assumption? If not, even if we accept their numbers, we cannot, as a matter of social science, say that restrictive laws are causing a higher abortion rate. The researchers have assumed this without adequate proof.

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Blogger Unknown said...

I read the link and the entire post. I think you make a valid point. You're right, there are several ways to lie with numbers. In order to be completely unbiased, a source must accurately represent ALL variables. Could it be possible that abortion rates dropped because there are more programs for un-wed, adolescent mothers? Could it be that teen pregnancy is more accepted now than then? Could it also have anything to do with work environments becoming more family friendly, along with daycare being more readily available?
Any organization cannot label one specific factor as a CAUSATION of decreased or increased scientific data. Doing so is just bad science and unreliable. Unfortunately, most people don't take the time to discern between truth and fiction, that is what most organizations (whether it be a Tide commercial or an abortion article) bank on; pluralistic ignorance.
I also thought after reading your debate with the South Dakota blog, the author of said blog dodged your point, and cowardly ended the dialogue before she answered any of your points.
My question is, how does legalizing abortion help women? It doesn't. In fact asking the question is a mute point. Abortion isn't about health, it's about choice and convenience. And since this person is refusing to give a zygote the same rights as a grown human being, why do so many abortion activists push for full term abortion and want no restrictions as to when during a pregnancy an abortion can be performed?

Thursday, October 18, 2007


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