My first post back will be about something I find extremely interesting.
Recently, the Guttmacher Institute (a research wing of Planned Parenthood), released a study with some stats I thought sounded fishy (read the summary report here) Of course the media just spit the press release out as fact. Some of the statements include:
- 48% of all abortions worldwide were unsafe
- more than 97% of all unsafe abortions were in developing countries
- There were 31 abortions for every 100 livebirths worldwide in 2003
Overall abortion rates are similar in the developing and developed world, but unsafe abortion is concentrated in developing countries. Ensuring that the need for contraception is met and that all abortions are safe will reduce maternal mortality substantially and protect maternal health.I wanted to really get behind the numbers, so I asked a friend, who is a Ph.D. statistician to look at the numbers with a critical eye. Here is what he sent me:
This is like stitching a quilt from fish nets. Here is the main data that you need to know: The primary author works for and the article is published by the Guttmacher Institute. The Institute is named after an Ob/Gyn and former president of Planned Parenthood, Dr. Alan Guttmacher. Nearly a quarter of the citations for this article are from a division of the Guttmacher Institute.This should be shared - please feel free to use and send to whomever you like.
Aside from that, here is what I see (note that I defer to their definitions):
-If an abortion takes place in a polity where induced abortion is illegal (or severely restricted), it is deemed as unsafe, even if done so by trained providers. Here is a noteworthy quote: "Moreover, illegal procedures are harmful even when they do not lead to these consequences [death or hospitalization], because they require women to take actions in violation of the law and often without the knowledge or support of their partners or family."
-If complications arise from an abortion in areas where it is restricted, they are no doubt due to unsafe abortion procedures, so most post-abortion complication records are categorized as unsafe.
-The data for 2003 is actually an amalgam of several years' worth of data. Trend estimates for 2003 were used when appropriate. If there was no information for 2003, a value from a previous year's estimate was used in its place.
-The researchers "corrected" some data for under-reporting. The correction inflation was usually about 140%. The US correction factor was 105%; Bangladesh was 300%. Therefore, for countries where abortions are illegal, the total number of abortions was estimated, then inflated, and then all of these were considered unsafe.
-Consequently, nearly all of the abortions in Africa and Latin America, which make up nearly a quarter of the total number of worldwide abortions, were deemed unsafe.
-If less than 50,000 of the abortions were considered safe in a particular region, then all of the abortions in that region were considered unsafe. Curiously enough, Southern Africa nudged up to 100,000 safe abortions, thereby keeping Africa from being listed as 100% unsafe.
-100% of the abortions in the region including China and North Korea are safe (implying forced=induced & safe).
-100% of the abortions in Northern and Western Europe and North America were safe.
-Oddly enough, when you estimate and then inflate the number of abortions in regions where they are illegal and unreported, you arrive at the fact that the incidence of abortions is no higher for polities that have unrestrictive abortion policies.
-No margins of error were reported for these estimates, even when survey data was utilized.
-Based on the information presented in this article, there is no way to reproduce the statistics; there is a tremendous amount of rounding error and the underlying raw data is essential unavailable given the "corrections."
-I found an estimated 260 million live births in the world in 2003 based on numbers from the U.S. Census Bureau International Data Base (rather than the 205 million used as a basis for the results of this study). Assuming that number is correct and the number of worldwide induced abortions for that year estimated by this group is also correct, then the upper threshold for the worldwide number of abortions is not 20% but 14%. This does not factor in miscarriages, spontaneous abortions, and still births.
Thanks Keith. You get a big Tip o' the Hat.