by Steven Ertelt
October 20, 2004
Washington, DC (LifeNews.com) — In a last-minute effort to call into question President Bush’s pro-life credentials, a researcher says that Bush’s economic policies have led to an increase in the number of abortions during his administration. However, a leading pro-life expert on abortion statistics says the study is flawed and sometimes uses old data or wrong numbers to draw conclusions.
Glen Harold Stassen a professor of Christian Ethics at Fuller Theological Seminary, released a study last week saying that abortion was decreasing when President George W. Bush took office and it has increased since.
Stassen’s study first claims that abortions were on the decline (down 17.4%) during the 1990s. The assumption he makes is that the economic policies of Bill Clinton caused the decrease.
However, Dr. Randy O’Bannon, director of education at the National Right to Life Committee, says most of the abortion decline in the 1990s occurred during the first few years. That’s when the first President Bush was in office and shortly thereafter — before Clinton’s economic policies would have had an effect.
Stassen wrongly averages the 17.4 percent decline to say that abortions decreased at the same 1.7 percent rate every year during the 90s. Since Clinton was in office during most of the 1990s, that would give him bragging rights to the abortion decrease.
But, Dr. O’Bannon said the rate of decline was higher in the Bush years and slowed during the Clinton years. "In Clinton’s last year in office, the decline was not 1.7%, but just 0.1%," O’Bannon explained.
During the Bush years and the year after, abortions decreased by 113,000, or 7 percent. The number of abortions fell by only 46,500, or 3.5 percent, during Clinton’s second term in office, when his economic policies were in full effect.
The abortion number even reversed itself one year during the Clinton presidency, from 1995-1996, and went up slightly.
Since the federal government stopped collecting national abortion figures in 2000, Stassen relies on data from 16 states to establish his claim that abortions have increased dramatically under President Bush.
Stassen found that abortions increased in 11 of those 16 states claims abortions must be on the rise nationwide.
"Stassen never demonstrates that his 16 states are representative of the 50 states," O’Bannon said. "Even worse for Stassen’s case is that some of his statistics are just flat wrong, while others are of ambiguous origin."
In Illinois, for example, Stassen mentions an increase in the abortion numbers from 2001-2002 and says abortions have increased under President Bush.
However, Stassen ignores the substantial decrease in the number of abortions from 2002 to 2003. The number of abortions dropped a whopping 10 percent that year to their lowest figure since Roe v. Wade legalized abortion in 1973.
"Taken as a whole, this latest drop appears to be part of a larger long term downward trend, with 2002 being a short term deviation," O’Bannon explains.
In Wisconsin, Stassen amazingly used the wrong data. Stassen says abortions in Wisconsin increased by 0.6% from 2001 to 2002. Yet, the Wisconsin Department of Health and Family Services says there were 436 fewer abortions performed in Wisconsin in 2002 than in 2001.
Staseen complicates his problem in South Dakota, a state he counts as one where abortion increased during the Bush administration.
He points to a one year increase from 2001-2002 of 2.1%. However, that’s the figure for the increase in the number of babies born during that period. Figures from the state’s health department reveal a 9.7 percent decrease in the number of abortions during that time.
According to O’Bannon’s analysis, looking at correct numbers and over longer periods than just one year, abortion increased in just 8 of the 16 states during the Bush administration rather than the 11 Stassen claims.
Those numbers, however, have no bearing on whether abortions are on the rise nationally. During the decrease in abortions in 1990, individual states saw the number of abortions rise from time to time and the same phenomenon might be happening now, says Dr. O’Bannon.
Data from other states show abortions are decreasing during the Bush years — and at a substantial rate.
From 2001-2002, abortions are down 9.3 percent in Kansas, 4.5 percent in Pennsylvania, they fell 9.3 percent in Kentucky and 6 percent in South Carolina.
Based on his faulty statistics, Stassen claims that Bush’s economic policies, and the job losses during the first half of his administration, have resulted in an increase in abortions.
But, O’Bannon says the observation is no more than an unproven correlation.
"To support his claim, Stassen, at minimum, would need to show that abortions have increased and that increases have coincided with declines in the economy. He would also need to rule out alternative explanations for any such relationship," Dr. O’Bannon said. "Stassen doesn’t do this."
"Not only do the data fail to indicate a nationwide upsurge in abortions, but Stassen provides no economic data whatsoever, much less the kind of statistical analysis one would need to show that abortions and economic factors such as unemployment are linked," O’Bannon adds.
If Stassen’s claim is correct, states that have been hit hard economically, such as Illinois, would show the biggest increase in the number of abortions.
While Illinois’ unemployment rate has been stuck at 6.7 percent, but abortions declined substantially there during the last year. In Ohio, where job losses have been a subject of the presidential campaign, abortions are on the decline there too.
"If the economic determinism Stassen assumes was valid, those state results would be reversed," O’Bannon said.