Those Pesky Facts: The Paper Trail for Howard Dean's "Abortion Increase" Invention


Let’s have more fun with numbers. I concluded the post below about Howard Dean’s wholesale invention of abortion data on Sunday’s Meet the Press (transcript) by asking:

Wondering what the political agenda is here? Why would Dean lie about abortion data (so outrageously)?

It’s a question worth exploring a little further.


Glen Stassen

Dean’s debacle appears rooted in an article that appeared in the Christian Century, this past February, “Supporting parents: A pro-lifer’s critique of Bush,” by Glen Stassen, the Lewis B. Smedes Professor of Christian Ethics at Fuller Seminary. (Variations of the same article are all over the web. See also here.)

Stassen makes Dean’s argument that abortions are increasing because of President Bush’s economic policies, which hurt women. . . and back them into having abortions:

During the 1990s, as unemployment steadily decreased and average real income rose, the annual number of abortions in the U.S. actually decreased by 300,000—from 1,610,000 to 1,310,000. But in 2002, the first full year of the Bush presidency, abortions increased in the 16 states for which I could find data by a total of 5,855. If the data from the rest of the nation fit that pattern, abortions increased nationwide in 2002 by about 24,000 a year, reversing the dramatic decreases of the 1990s.

Surely that increase reflects economic and social conditions.

Elsewhere on the web, at Malkin Watch, Stassen has argued that: “The thirty-year trend shows abortion rates moving in tandem with women’s unemployment rates.”

Does it? Let’s see:

Abortion Unempl 78-02.JPG

So where did Dean get the 25% abortion increase under Bush? Arizona in 2002. One year in one state, does not a nationwide trend make. Furthermore, Arizona’s own Department of Health Services cautioned that their data reflected “a better response rate of providers.” (More from the National Right to Life.)

In statistics we call this a sample size error (or “mining the data”). In politics we call it spin. (In raising children. . . we call it lying.)

See more at Shock and Blog


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2 Responses

  1. DSmith says:

    It’s lying no matter who does it. It’s intellectually dishonest. A *Christian* scholar who does this….what is there to say?

  2. Tom Maguire says:

    Well, thank you so much. I have been rebutting this for so long that I have been lax in checking the Alan Gutmacher site.

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