February 8, 2008

bogus numbers

I am a math teacher and I have been a statistics teacher. I "get" numbers, at least to some extent, so, I am not going to get in a numbers war with anyone. Besides, that wouldn't really solve anything.

Even so, I want to share some numbers with you.

Before I share, I would like to say that I am not trying to build a case for the Bush Administration. That is not my point, but I have heard more than one person justify voting for a non-Pro-Life candidate based on the numbers of abortions rising during the Bush presidency. Something about the effectiveness of a candidate compared to their political stand. I wasn't sure about that so before I ran my blog-mouth I did a little research.

Here is a good summary statement to so much of what I found. So, the Abortion numbers:

[T]hose numbers come from a flawed study conducted by a researcher who used faulty data to survey the rise or fall of abortions during the Bush administration.

Glen Harold Stassen a professor of Christian Ethics at Fuller Theological Seminary, released the politically-charged study just before the presidential elections.

Stassen claimed that abortions increased in 11 of 16 states and he assumed abortions must be on the rise nationwide.

However, Stassen used wrong figures in several states — sometimes using old abortion stats and, in South Dakota, using the birth rate instead of the number of abortions.

Meanwhile, Clinton also said that during her husband’s administration, “we saw the rate of abortion consistently fall.”

“The abortion rate fell by one-quarter between 1990 and 1995, the steepest decline since Roe was decided in 1973,” Clinton told a conference of the Family Planning Advocates of New York. “The rate fell another 11 percent between 1994 and 2000.”

Those numbers also come from the flawed Stassen study.

Stassen’s article 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.

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.

Here is a chart and some sources:

(Click on the image for a better view.)

To help with the chart: Bill Clinton took office on January 20, 1993. When his policies began to come into full affect you can see how they began to level off, and the quick decrease slowed down. They leveled off during most of his presidency, and began to drop about a year after George W. Bush was in office.

One thing that I have learned as a math teacher is that accurate numbers don't lie.

Sources: 1969–1972: Center for Disease Control (CDC) Abortion Surveillance, Annual Summary, 1973, Atlanta: CDC, 1973. 1973–2000: Finer LB and Henshaw SK, Abortion incidence and services in the United States in 2000, Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health, 2003, 35(1):6–15. 2001-2002: Finer LB and Henshaw SK, Estimates of U.S. abortion incidence in 2001 and 2002, The Alan Guttmacher Institute, 2005, , accessed May 17, 2005. 2003-2005: Jones RK et al., Abortion in the United States: incidence and access to services, 2005, Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health, 2008, 40(1):6–16.


  1. Thanks, Matt. I appreciate the numbers, too. I'd like to see what factors led to the drop you mention as the Bush Administration started.

  2. And I am not trying to throw this in as a defense of Bush's Administration.

    I just think that it is interesting that they leveled off during the influence of Clinton and they began to decline again a year after he was out of office.

    It is possible, though there is some controversy over this, that the parental notification laws have had some affect.


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