The author makes a fair point that the abortion decline was fairly consistent throughout the country and was not concentrated in states that were active in passing pro-life laws. He correctly points out the sharp increase in state-level pro-life laws took place after the abortion decline already happened. However, the study presents a false dichotomy between either crediting legislation or crediting contraceptives for the falling abortion numbers. Indeed, it neglects other factors such as public opinion. In 2009, for the very first time, Gallup reported that a majority of Americans described themselves as “pro-life.”
A longer term analysis of abortion trends reveals insights which weaken Guttmacher’s case. Last month, the Charlotte Lozier Institute released a study by Susan Wills analyzing the U.S. abortion decline from 1990 to 2010. The key finding is that the abortion decline has not been uniform among age groups. The declines have been the greatest in both absolute and percentage terms among teens and women in their early 20s. This is important for two reasons. First, Long Acting Reversible Contraceptives (LARCs), which are touted by Guttmacher, tend to be unpopular with this subset of women. Second, there is a growing body of data showing declines in teen sexual activity since the early 1990s. As such, contraceptive use may be playing less of a role in the long-term abortion decline than the Guttmacher analysis would indicate.
Additional analysis further weakens Guttmacher’s argument. According to its own statistics, the number of abortions has fallen by roughly 34 percent since 1990 and the abortion rate has fallen by 38 percent since that time. It is true that contraception use has increased since the early 1990s, but it’s also true that contraception use has been rising steadily since the early 1960s, and obviously predates the abortion decline by a significant number of years. More importantly, even though contraceptive use has gone up, the fertility rate and unintended pregnancy rate have both actually increased slightly since the mid-1990s. All in all, pro-life efforts to change the hearts and minds of women facing crisis pregnancies might be more effective than commonly realized.
CMDA Executive Vice President Gene Rudd, MD – “When I recently asked an accountant for a financial report, her response was, “What do you want the numbers to be?” I had heard this as a joke, but she seemed serious. When I told her I wanted the numbers to be accurate, she explained that she could make a variety of assumptions and chose different methodologies that would produce somewhat different results. If I had a preference for how the numbers should look, she would make decisions that would influence the numbers in that direction. To me it sounded like cooking the books; essentially asking what I wanted 2 + 2 to equal.
“And it is not only in accounting. The medical and scientific literature are replete with similar biases and influences that determine outcome, intentional or not. A survey published in the journal Naturei revealed the magnitude of the problem, from poor record keeping (27 percent) to outright fraud. And these were the researchers themselves admitting wrongdoing! Actual misbehavior may be higher.
“We should be wary that those with social or political agendas will cook the books, reporting data the way that serves their purpose. What do you think the Guttmacher Institute (founded and funded by Planned Parenthood) wants the numbers to be?”
CMDA Resources on Abortion
iMartinson BC, Anderson MS, de Vries R. Scientists behaving badly, Nature 435/9, June 2005.