October 18, 2004


Why abortion rate is up in Bush years (GLEN HAROLD STASSEN and GARY KRANE, 10/17/04, Houston Chronicle)

We analyzed the data on abortion during the Bush presidency. There is no single source for this information -- federal reports go only to the year 2000, and many states do not report -- but we found enough data to identify trends. Our findings are disturbing.

Abortion was decreasing. When President Bush took office, the nation's abortion rates were at a 24-year low, after a 17.4 percent decline during the 1990s. This was a steady decrease averaging 1.7 percent per year. (The data come from Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life using the Guttmacher Institute's studies.)

Enter George W. Bush in 2001. One would expect the abortion rate to continue its consistent course downward, if not plunge. Instead, the opposite happened.

We found four states that have posted three-year statistics: Kentucky's increased by 3.2 percent from 2000 to 2003. Michigan's increased by 11.3 percent from 2000 to 2003. Pennsylvania's increased by 1.9 percent from 1999 to 2002. Colorado's rates skyrocketed 111 percent. We found 12 additional states that reported statistics for 2001 and 2002. Eight states saw an increase in abortion rates (14.6 percent average increase), and four saw a decrease (4.3 percent average).

Under Bush, the decade-long trend of declining abortion rates appears to have reversed. Given the trends of the 1990s, 52,000 more abortions occurred in the United States in 2002 than would have been expected before this change of direction.

For anyone familiar with why most women have abortions, this is no surprise:

Two-thirds of women who have abortions cite "inability to afford a child" as their primary reason (Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life).

The authors pull an interesting stunt here, using one set of stats for the decline and then their own anecdotal evidence for the rise. Even better--they count 2000 and even 1999 as years of the Bush presidency.
I had little luck finding whatever new numbers they're using, but here are some that would seem to suggest they're just making it up:

Here are some numbers (not Guttmacher's, which in turn come from the Feds) for Michigan, which has had a slight rise, but it began in 2000, not 2001, and remains extraordinarily low even for the U.S.

If Colorado has truly increased 111% it went from having a rather average abortion rate (for the U.S.) to one that approaches the District of Columbia's--hardly likely.

Pennsylvania's has actually dropped, Abortions Drop in Pennsylvania (PA Pro Life)

Abortions declined in Pennsylvania in 2002, thanks to a decrease in abortion facilities and the success of a state-funded program designed to provide alternatives to abortion.

According to figures released by the Pennsylvania Department of Health, abortions declined 4.5 percent in 2002 in comparison to the totals for the year before. In all, some 35,167 abortions were performed in Pennsylvania in 2002--the second-lowest annual number ever recorded. The 2002 figure represented 1,653 fewer abortions than in 2001.

It would certainly make sense that economic pressures would affect abortion rates--not to mention that terrorist attacks and war might incline people to make such decisions--but these numbers suggest those effects began in the last Clinton years when the economy began to sour. At any rate, they're an excellent argument for reducing the tax burden on people who have kids and making the little buggers more affordable.

N.B.--if anyone sees or can find other numbers we'll post them.

Posted by Orrin Judd at October 18, 2004 12:00 AM
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