WASHINGTON, DC, December 17, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Pro-life activists cautiously welcomed a November report from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) which appeared to show a slight decrease in abortions nationally in 2009. But now a study conducted by the research arm of the Susan B. Anthony List has revealed that the true picture of abortion in America is obscured by rampant inconsistencies in the way the data the CDC uses to compile its evaluation are reported, and that it may be impossible to say for sure whether abortions are up or down.
“National and state abortion reporting laws and policies in the United States are a patchwork that falls far short of fulfilling the potential of this information to inform and guide public policy,” a report from the Charlotte Lozier Institute (CLI) states.
The report says that “the system now in place is poorly suited to determine whether or not, in fact, abortion is becoming significantly less frequent and to what degree, especially in year-over-year comparisons where published data is delayed, non-existent, or available only from a single source with a history of close ties to the industry itself.”
The CLI report points out that besides the CDC, the only other source for national abortion data in the United States is the Guttmacher Institute, formerly affiliated with Planned Parenthood, and that there are significant inconsistencies between the two sources.
“The Institute obtains survey data directly from abortion providers, including those with which it was formerly affiliated as the research arm of Planned Parenthood,” says the CLI report. “This history has permitted the Institute to obtain information that, though voluntarily submitted like that from the CDC’s reporting areas, is far more complete than the federal data.”
The researchers found a consistent disparity between CDC and Guttmacher data in the ten-year period between 1999 to 2009, with the CDC undercounting US abortion numbers by about 32 percent in each year compared to Guttmacher numbers.
However, even the Guttmacher Institute’s data shows significant internal inconsistencies For instance, the CLI researchers found that Guttmacher reported a 50 percent decline in total abortions in the District of Columbia from 2000 to 2008, a period in which the national abortion volume reportedly decreased by roughly 7 percent. It then reported that in 2009 the city’s abortion total surged “a stunning 28.7%.”
“It seems probable that an increase of this size did not actually occur, but rather that the numbers reported for the immediately preceding years under the capital city’s voluntary reporting law represent a large undercount,” CLI stated.
The study noted that in the age of the Internet, neither gathering nor disseminating useful current data need be a costly or complicated enterprise.
“Minnesota, Arizona and New York City offer examples of effective reporting that is done in a timely and useful way,” CLI pointed out. Minnesota’s abortion reporting law requires submission to the legislature and release of an annual summary report for each year no later than July of the following year.
The CLI report notes that the inability to access reliable data from states that make abortion reporting voluntary and do not publish annual public reports “casts considerable doubt on assertions about general abortion trends in the United States as well as about more particular issues of health, age, abortion safety and demographics of concern to policymakers and the public.”
The result of the current situation, says the CLI report, is “a slowly produced and voluntary national report from the CDC, a similarly delayed but more comprehensive report from a private entity associated with legal abortion, and a patchwork of state laws and policies.”
This situation “denies citizens, researchers and policymakers the advantages of prompt and thorough information that could guide debate and action toward the best possible outcome for mothers and the children they help beget and bear.”
Charles Donovan, president of the Charlotte Lozier Institute, said, “until we have consistent public abortion reporting, we cannot begin to paint a complete picture of abortion trends in the U.S. The process must be improved and accelerated, and the good news is that this can be done and the public interest can be served.”
The full text of the Lozier Institute study, titled “Abortion Reporting: Tears in the Fabric” is available here.