Marc Barnes

Guttmacher Institue overestimates illegal abortions by over 1000%: study

Marc Barnes
By Marc Barnes
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December 10, 2012 (BadCatholic) - One of the more exciting hobbies of The Guttmacher Institute — besides receiving annual donations from Planned Parenthood — is demanding greater legal access to abortion in countries where abortion is restricted. This demand blooms from studies of these countries — usually Guttmacher’s — which consistently find high numbers of illegal abortions and abortion-related maternal deaths.

Their message is simple: Legalize abortion, for there exists a massive need for it, and women are dying in their attempt to meet that need with unsafe, illegal abortion. And for the past thirty years or so, we’ve all nodded dutifully, thanked Guttmacher for their hip-as-all-get-out videos explaining this, worked up compassionate faces, and legalized abortion.

Here’s the issue: The methods with which The Guttmacher Institute and researchers of the same vein use to procure these drastic numbers are decisively moronic.

A study published recently by Koch et al. in the International Journal of Women’s Health entitled “Fundamental discrepancies in abortion estimates and abortion-related mortality: A reevaluation of recent studies in Mexico with special reference to the International Classification of Diseases” — which I will be quoting from — politely points this out.

The Guttmacher Institute determines the number of induced abortions in a given country through the use of surveys.

First, they pass out what’s called a Health Facilities Survey to subjects who work in — you guessed it — healthcare facilities, asking them “to remember the total number of women who received post-abortion care ‘in the average month and in the past month.’” Once this recalled number is obtained, they move on to stage two — the Health Professionals Survey.

Guttmacher surveys healthcare professionals “selected on the basis of their professional affiliation, training, experience and specialization on the subject.” (1) Who these people are remains unavailable, as do their qualifications (what counts as specialization?), as do the questions asked in the survey (and whether those questions contain any relative bias), thus rendering the survey unrepeatable — an issue for any scientist. But the Guttmacher Institute is resolute, well-funded, and undeterred by such trifles. The Health Professionals Survey is used to estimate “an expansive multiplier of abortion rates (x3, x4, x5, etc)”, which is then applied to the numbers obtained by the Health Facilities Survey. Voila, the number of abortions.

Even a layman like myself can see why this is iffy at best. As Koch et al. state, such “estimation methods are subjective in nature and extremely subject to selection and recall bias”, that is, to the intentional or unintentional manipulation of answers by those biased on the issue of legalized abortion. Furthermore, there is no information on how the subjects of the Health Professionals Survey were selected, and if the sample size is enough to represent the total population of medical professionals in Mexico.

Don’t take my word for it though. The numbers show how drastically this survey-method of “counting” abortions overestimates reality.

Guttmacher — using their surveys — estimated that for the year 2006 in the Federal District of Mexico (Mexico DF) there were between 137,145 and 194,875 induced abortions. Normally their word would have been taken as gospel truth, but because Mexico DF offers abortion on request to any woman up to 12 weeks into a pregnancy — one of the few Mexican states in which abortion is legal – there exists another way of counting abortions in the same area — actually counting abortions via the required reporting of abortion rates by hospitals.

The number of recorded abortions in 2007 — the year abortion was legalized in the Mexico DF — was 10,137. This number, for those interested, is less than 137,145 and 194, 875. We are left with two options.

Option 1: Either immediately upon abortion being legalized in the Federal District of Mexico, from 2006 to 2007, the abortion rate experienced an epic, up to 2000% decrease. This would be bizarre, given that, as Stanley Henshaw of the Guttmacher Institute itself has explained, “In most countries, it is common after abortion is legalized for abortion rates to rise sharply for several years” (2) and that it defies common sense.

It wouldn’t be a bad argument to make that, since legal abortion was new in the year 2007, there were still illegal abortions taking place, abortions that would have been included in the Guttmacher surveys but missed by the actual counting of legal abortions. However, as the study points out:

…the figure of legally induced abortions carried out in the five cumulative years from April 2007 until April 2012 (ie, a period of time probably long enough to replace illegal abortion with legal procedures in Mexico DF) was 78,544; which is nearly 50% of the original estimate by the [Guttmacher Institute] for only a single year [2006].

We move, therefore, to Option Two: The survey method of obtaining abortion rates is inaccurate, verging on ridiculous. Yet still it continues:

[The Guttmacher Institute] have recently conducted another study insisting on the use of the same methodology and showing figures of induced abortion overestimated by approximately 1000% for 2009 (ie, estimating 122,455 induced abortions instead of the actual figure of 12,221 for Mexico DF in 2009) despite the existence of epidemiological surveillance on this matter by an independent non-governmental agency.

Which, by and large, was dumb. Now that legal abortion is available in Federal District of Mexico, and has been legal long enough so as to make illegal abortions a negligible percentage of total abortions, the Guttmacher Institute still demands we believe that abortion rates are 1000% higher than reported. There have been problems with underreporting regarding the recording of legal abortion rates, but there is no serious consideration that underreporting could be this low. As Koch et al point out:

We acknowledge that underreporting of legal abortions may limit the reliability of estimations based on actual records in Mexico DF. Nevertheless, Mexican health authorities have been actively working towards decreasing the underreporting of maternal mortality statistics which, at least in terms of MMR, have decreased to a negligible percentage since 2003. Even if such efforts have yet to be translated into a decrease in the potential underreporting of legal abortion records in Mexico DF, especially within the private sector, the figures proposed by [the Guttmacher Institute researchers] would still be overestimated. For instance, speculatively assuming an underreporting of 1- to 3-fold, the figure proposed by these authors would be overestimated by 2.5 to 5 times.

Now there is a similar issue with the method by which researchers currently determine induced-abortion-related mortality, that is, the number of women who die from abortions.

Abortion-related mortality is determined by dividing the number of abortion-related deaths by the number of live births.

The International Classification of Diseases considers abortion-related mortality to include deaths by “all pregnancies with abortive outcome”. While this may sound straightforward enough, the reality is complicated, for death by all “pregnancies with abortive outcome” does not necessarily indicate death by botched illegal abortions, but refers to “causes of death ranging from abnormal products of conception to unspecified, and other abortions.” This, as Koch et al show, includes such complications as miscarriage, “hydatidiform mole [and] ectopic pregnancy”.

Again, the study does the universe a favor by pointing out the obvious:

[These] should not be included in the assessment of abortion mortality, particularly when the focus of the study is to address the influence of illegal abortion on maternal health. For example, if one wanted to measure the deleterious effects of alcoholism on the liver, one would want an indicator specific to alcoholism. If that indicator instead included liver damage caused by fulminant hepatitis, Wilson’s disease, and drug-related liver damage, then the specific damage attributable to alcohol would be obscured. Similarly, if one wants to determine mortality from induced abortion, then deaths from other causes (such as hydatidiform mole or ectopic pregnancy) should be excluded.

But studies such as Schiavon et al, “Analysis of maternal and abortion related mortality in Mexico over the last two decades” do include these “abortion-related deaths”. Thus their frightening conclusion, that “(u)nsafe abortion continues to represent a significant proportion of all maternal deaths in Mexico” is rendered a skeptical one.

When Koch et al. removed the “abortion-related deaths” that were not specific to induced abortion — which, after all, is what was being studied — and looked at the numbers again, they found the following:

When taking this into consideration, even though the AMR shown by Schiavon et al displays discrete changes between 1990 and 2008, unspecified abortion (O06) combined with other abortion (O05) between 2002 and 2008 shows a downward trend, with a 22.9% overall decrease from 1.44 to 1.10 deaths per 100,000 live births. This observation further supports the notion that the apparent lack of progress in abortion-related maternal mortality in Mexico is likely to be related to causes other than unspecified abortion (O06) and other abortion (O05), and therefore seems to be unrelated to illegal induced abortion. (Emphasis my own.)

The study goes on to suggest that the apparent lack of progress in abortion-related maternal mortality seems more strongly correlated with an increase in violence against pregnant women in Mexico.

Obviously, there is much more to the study, including recommended alternatives to Guttmacher’s surveys and the the general use of ICD codes to determine abortion-related mortality. But these two points represent a paradigm shift in the way we view the legalization of abortion. If the primary method of establishing abortion rates in countries that restrict abortion is flawed, producing impossibly exaggerated numbers, the oft-repeated argument that legalizing abortion is a dire necessity is rendered null. If the primary method by which researchers determine the number of women dying from illegal abortions is flawed, including deaths that are not the result of induced abortion, then the oft-repeated emotional argument that women are dying from the lack of legalized abortion is similarly called into question. In fact, the argument sidetracks the conversation, and detracts resources away from the issues that truly do effect maternal mortality, such as the “adequate medical treatment of conditions such as hemorrhage, gestational hypertension, eclampsia, and indirect causes of maternal death, mainly characterized by pre-existing chronic diseases.”

The importance of this study cannot be understated. The lessons of Mexico should, at the very least, curb our enthusiasm for the widespread legalization of abortion.

1. Singh & Bankole, Ginecol Obstet Mex 2012;80(8):554–561. Article in Spanish
2. Stanley Henshaw, Guttmacher Institute (16 June 1994)

Reprinted with permission from Marc Barnes’ blog on Patheos.


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Although it is widely believed that people with Down syndrome are doomed to a life of suffering, in one large survey 99% of respondents with Down syndrome described themselves as "happy." Shutterstock
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‘Sick and twisted’: Down’s advocates, pro-life leaders slam Richard Dawkins’ abortion remarks

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By Dustin Siggins

Advocates on behalf of individuals with Down syndrome, as well as pro-life leaders, are slamming famed atheist Richard Dawkin’s statements made on Twitter earlier today that parents have a moral responsibility to abort babies diagnosed in utero with Down’s.

During a shocking Twitter rant, Dawkins responded to questioners saying that it was "civilised" to abort Down Syndrome babies, and that it would be "immoral" to choose not to abort babies diagnosed with the condition.

He said that his goal is to "reduce suffering wherever you can," indicating that unborn children cannot suffer, and that unborn children don't "have human feelings."

In addition to being scientifically challenged - unborn children can feel both pain and emotions - Dawkins' comments drew criticism for his callousness towards children with disabilities.  

"A true civilization – a civilization of love – does not engage in such cold and ultimately suicidal calculus"

“It's sick and twisted for anyone to advocate for the killing of children with disabilities,” Live Action President Lila Rose told LifeSiteNews. “Dawkins's ignorant comments serve only to further stigmatize people with Down syndrome.

“While many people with Down syndrome, their families, and advocacy groups are fighting discrimination on a daily basis, Dawkins calls for their murder before they are even born,” she said. “Those with Down syndrome are human beings, with innate human dignity, and they, along with the whole human family, deserve our respect and protection.”

Carol Boys, chief executive of the Down's Syndrome Association, told MailOnline that, contrary to Dawkins’ assertion, “People with Down’s syndrome can and do live full and rewarding lives, they also make a valuable contribution to our society.”

A spokesperson for the UK disabilities charity Scope lamented that during the “difficult and confusing time” when parents find out they are expecting a child with disabilities, they often experience “negative attitudes.”

“What parents really need at this time is sensitive and thorough advice and information,” the spokesperson said.

Charlotte Lozier Institute president Chuck Donovan agreed with Rose’s assessment. "Advocates of abortion for those 'weaker' than others, or of less physical or intellectual dexterity, should remember that each of us is 'lesser' in some or most respects," he said.

According to Donovan, "we deliver a death sentence on all of humanity by such cruel logic."

"A true civilization – a civilization of love – does not engage in such cold and ultimately suicidal calculus" he said.

One family who has a child with Down syndrome said Dawkins was far from the mark when he suggested that aborting babies with Down syndrome is a good way to eliminate suffering.

Jan Lucas, whose son Kevin has Down syndrome, said that far from suffering, Kevin has brought enormous joy to the family, and "is so loving. He just has a million hugs."

She described how Kevin was asked to be an honorary deacon at the hurch they attend in New Jersey, “because he is so encouraging to everyone. At church, he asks people how their families are, says he'll pray for them, and follows up to let them know that he has been praying for them."

It's not just strangers for whom Kevin prays. "My husband and I were separated for a time, and Kevin kept asking people to pray for his dad," said Jan. "They didn't believe that Kevin's prayers would be answered. Kevin didn't lose hope, and asking people, and our marriage now is better than ever before. We attribute it to Kevin's prayers, and how he drew on the prayers of everyone."

"I don't know what we'd do without him," said Jan.

Speaking with LifeSiteNews, Kevin said that his favorite things to do are "spending time with my family, and keeping God in prayer." He said that he "always knows God," which helps him to "always keep praying for my friends."

"I love my church," said Kevin.

Although it is widely believed that people with Down syndrome are doomed to a life of suffering, in one large survey 99% of respondents with Down syndrome described themselves as "happy." At the same time, 99% percent of parents said they loved their child with Down syndrome, and 97 percent said they were proud of them.

Only 4 percent of parents who responded said they regretted having their child.

Despite this, it is estimated that in many Western countries the abortion rate of children diagnosed in utero with Down syndrome is 90%, or even higher. The development of new and more accurate tests for the condition has raised concerns among Down syndrome advocates that that number could rise even higher. 


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Asked about Iraq on his return flight from South Korea, Francis replied that 'it is legitimate to halt the unjust aggressor.' Shutterstock
Steve Weatherbe

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Pope Francis: steps must be taken to halt ‘unjust aggressor’ in Iraq

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Pope Francis and his emissary to Iraq’s persecuted non-Muslim minorities, Cardinal Fernando Filoni, have both called on the United Nations to act in concert to protect Iraqis Christian and Yazidi minorities from the radical Islamic forces of ISIS.

Asked about Iraq on his return flight from South Korea, Francis replied that “it is legitimate to halt the unjust aggressor.”

He added, however, that “halt” does not mean to “bomb” and lamented “how many times with the excuse of halting the unjust aggressor…have powerful nations taken possession of peoples and waged a war of conquest!”

He also cautioned that no single nation could determine the right measures. Any intervention must be multilateral and preferably by the United Nations, he said.

Meanwhile, Cardinal Foloni, who is visiting Iraq on behalf of Pope Francis, issued a joint statement this week with Chaldean Catholic Patriarch Louis Raphael I Sako and the Iraqi bishops that urged the international community to “liberate the villages and other places that have been occupied as soon as possible and with a permanent result.”

The statement also urged efforts to “assure that there is international protection for these villages and so to encourage these families to go back to their homes and to continue to live a normal life in security and peace.”

Archbishop Giorgio Lingua, the Vatican nuncio to Iraq, was also asked by Vatican Radio earlier this month about the U.S. airstrikes in Iraq.

“This is something that had to be done, otherwise [the Islamic State] could not be stopped,” the archbishop said. 

Although Pope Francis’ own remarks about an intervention in the war-torn country were carefully guarded, Catholic commentator Robert Spencer, author of such bestselling exposes of Islam as “The Truth About Muhammad: Founder of the World's Most Intolerant Religion,” told LifeSiteNews he believes the pope was clearly calling for an “armed intervention, though a very limited one.”  

“Only a fool would think there is another way to stop an ‘unjust aggressor,’” he said.

Spencer expressed concerns that both Francis and Pope John Paul II before him have both referred to Islam a “religion of peace,” which Spencer says is “completely false.” However, he suggested that Francis’ remarks calling for action in Iraq are a sign of a more realistic attitude towards Islam.   

On this, Spencer would likely have the support of Amel Nona, the Chaldean Catholic archbishop of Mosul, who issued a letter last week warning the West in stark terms about the encroaching threat of Islam.

“Our sufferings today are the prelude of those you, Europeans and Western Christians, will also suffer,” Nona warned. “Your liberal and democratic principles are worth nothing here.

“You must consider again our reality in the Middle East, because you are welcoming in your countries an ever growing number of Muslims. Also you are in danger. You must take strong and courageous decisions, even at the cost of contradicting your principles,” he said

“You think all men are equal, but that is not true: Islam does not say that all men are equal. Your values are not their values. If you do not understand this soon enough, you will become the victims of the enemy you have welcomed in your home.”


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'Apparently I'm a horrid monster for recommending WHAT ACTUALLY HAPPENS to the great majority of Down Syndrome fetuses,' said Dawkins. 'They are aborted.' Shutterstock
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Richard Dawkins: it’s ‘immoral’ NOT to abort babies with Down syndrome

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By Dustin Siggins

In a bizarre rant on Twitter earlier today, atheist Richard Dawkins wrote that choosing not to abort a child with Down Syndrome would be "immoral."

The conversation started when Dawkins tweeted that "Ireland is a civilised country except in this 1 area." The area was abortion, which until last year was illegal in all cases.

A Twitter user then asked Dawkins if "994 human beings with Down's Syndrome [having been] deliberately killed before birth in England and Wales in 2012" was "civilised."

Dawkins replied "yes, it is very civilised. These are fetuses, diagnosed before they have human feelings."

Later, Dawkins said that "the question is not ‘is it 'human'?’ but ‘can it SUFFER?’"

In perhaps the most shocking moment, one Twitter user wrote that he or she "honestly [doesn't] know what I would do if I were pregnant with a kid with Down Syndrome. Real ethical dilemma."

Dawkins advised the writer to "abort it and try again. It would be immoral to bring it into the world if you have the choice."

According to Dawkins, the issue of who should be born comes down to a calculation based upon possible suffering. "Yes. Suffering should be avoided. [The abortion] cause[s] no suffering. Reduce suffering wherever you can."

Later, however, he said that people on the autism spectrum "have a great deal to contribute, Maybe even an enhanced ability in some respects. [Down Syndrome] not enhanced."

When Dawkins received some blowback from Twitter followers, he replied: "Apparently I'm a horrid monster for recommending WHAT ACTUALLY HAPPENS to the great majority of Down Syndrome fetuses. They are aborted."

It is estimated that in many Western countries the abortion rate of children diagnosed in utero with Down syndrome is 90%, or even higher. The development of new and more accurate tests for the condition has raised concerns among Down syndrome advocates that that number could rise even higher. 

Although it is widely believed that people with Down syndrome are doomed to a life of suffering, in one large survey 99% of respondents with Down syndrome said they were "happy." At the same time, 99% percent of parents said they loved their child with Down syndrome, and 97 percent said they were proud of them.

Only 4 percent of parents who responded said they regretted having their child. 

A number of Dawkins' statements in the Twitter thread about fetal development are at odds with scientific realities. For example, it is well-established that 20 weeks into a pregnancy, unborn children can feel pain. Likewise, unborn children have emotional reactions to external stimuli -- such as a mother's stress levels -- months before being born. 

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