by Steven Ertelt
July 19, 2006
Washington, DC (LifeNews.com) — A new report from a University of Alabama professor finds that a March New York Times article claiming parental involvement laws on abortion have little or no impact in terms of reducing the number of teen abortions is flawed.
The Times evaluated just six states that introduced parental involvement laws in the past decade and claimed they did not have the intended effect of lowering abortions.
They found that, both before and after the enactment of parental involvement laws, the ratio of abortions to births for minors closely tracks the ratio of abortions to births for 18- to 19-year-olds, who would not be directly affected by the law. Thus, they concluded the laws had no impact.
But Dr. Michael New, an Alabama political science professor, says the Times has it wrong and points to six key problems in the newspaper’s report.
New says the Times used suspect data from Arizona, which changed its abortion reporting requirements in 2004, the year after the state’s parental consent law was enacted. While abortions using the dangerous abortion drug RU were not included before the law, they were included afterwards — making it appear abortions had increased when they were just done by different methods.
New also said the Times should have relied on data directly from abortion centers themselves rather than from state health departments. While some states accurately track abortions, others do not report the most updated numbers or require all abortion businesses to report a complete set of data.
The Times also should not have relied on the comparison of abortions to births to make its conclusion, Dr. New explained.
"Some researchers measure the incidence of abortion by comparing the ratio of abortions to births. However, many other researchers use the abortion rate, which is the number of abortions performed per thousand women of childbearing age," New explains.
"The abortion rate is often a better metric" because it can be calculated for specific age groups, like teenagers, and because birthrates can fluctuate for reasons that have nothing to do with abortions.
New also said the Times shouldn’t have relied on just the first year of abortion date following the passage of a parental notification or consent law, because abortions normally start declining more rapidly in later years.
"The fact that the Times reporters consider only two data points from every state, instead of a range of years, therefore limits their analysis," he explained.
New also said the Times should have relied more on larger states with more abortions and births to make comparisons about years before and after such laws are enacted. That would have given them a greater sample to use to make a determination.
Finally, New says the Times was wrong to just compare the data from teenagers to 18 and 19 year-olds, who are not affected by parental involvement laws.
"Since a higher percentage of 18–19-year-olds are married, a higher percentage of pregnancies among 18–19-year-olds are likely intentional," New said. "Furthermore, since many teens go away to school, the 18- and 19-year-olds residing in a particular state might be much different demographically from the 13–17-year-olds who reside in the same state."
If the New York Times was wrong in its analysis, what kind of effect do parental involvement laws on abortion have?
New set out to examine data form the same six states the Times used, but correcting the errors in their analysis and relying on more accurate data.
"Contrary to the claims of the Times reporters, properly analyzed data provide solid evidence that parental involvement laws have been effective at reducing the incidence of abortion among minors," he said.
While abortions on teenagers have been on the decline nationwide, "[the] largest decline in the incidence of abortion was always among minors who lived in states where a parental involvement law was passed," he said.
New says other research shows the same results and pointed to a March 2006 study by the New England Journal of Medicine looking at the impact of the Texas parental notification law that was passed in 2000.
"Using an approach that was similar to, but more methodologically rigorous than, the approach used by the Times reporters, the authors arrived at conclusions that were strikingly different. They found that after passage of this parental notification law, the abortion rate for minors fell more sharply than the abortion rate for 18-year-olds—who would be unaffected by the law," New explained.
New concludes that parental notification and consent laws on abortion have done exactly what supporters hope they would do — reduce teen abortions.
Related web sites:
Dr. New’s analysis – https://www.heritage.org/Research/Family/cda06-05.cfm