Tuesday, October 19, 2004

A Bush hit piece aimed at undecided pro-lifers

Here's a piece that deserves a thorough fisking: Why abortion rate is up in Bush years.

This piece is appearing all over the media and the Internet and purports to show why pro-life voters should support abortion extremist John Kerry.
I, Glen, am a Christian ethicist, and trained in statistical analysis. I am consistently pro-life. My son David is one witness. For my family, "pro-life" is personal. My wife caught rubella in the eighth week of her pregnancy. We decided not to terminate, to love and raise our baby. David is legally blind and severely handicapped; he also is a blessing to us and to the world. Gary Krane is an investigative journalist.
Stassen is a longtime proponent of abortion rights within the Southern Baptist denomination. He signed a 1977 document, "A Call to Concern," which called for Southern Baptists to oppose "legal abolition of any and all abortion." He signed onto the Religious Coalition for Abortion Rights in the late '70s. At the American Academy of Religion meeting in 2004, he presided over a program on ethics, religion and social services titled "Celebrating the Work of Larry Rasmussen," the same Larry Rasmussen whose book Ethics for a Small Planet was published by The Religious Consultation on Population, Reproductive Health & Ethics and had an introduction written by Rosemary Radford Ruether, a founding director of Catholics for a Free Choice.

"Investigative journalist" Gary Krane is a Democratic operative who went looking for a Flash animator recently. He wrote: "I am an investigative journalist whose team has recently discovered that in contrast to the Clinton years when abortion rates dropped every year almost 2% per year, they have leveled and in some states gone up significantly. This is a bombshell that could decided this election, because about 50% of undecided voters are pro-life! We want to get this bombshell out as fast to as many people as possible, but of course have no funds. Will you help??"

I've got questions about their statistics, but right now I'm just point out that these are not the dispassionate observers that they pretend to be.
We look at the fruits of political policies more than words. We analyzed the data on abortion during the Bush presidency. There is no single source for this information -- federal reports go only to the year 2000, and many states do not report -- but we found enough data to identify trends. Our findings are disturbing.
It's true that the data are sketchy. The Alan Guttmacher Institute, the research arm of Planned Parenthood, goes only to 2000, as does the information at the Centers for Disease Control, both showing downward trends to 2000.
Abortion was decreasing. When President Bush took office, the nation's abortion rates were at a 24-year low, after a 17.4 percent decline during the 1990s. This was a steady decrease averaging 1.7 percent per year. (The data come from Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life using the Guttmacher Institute's studies.)

Enter George W. Bush in 2001. One would expect the abortion rate to continue its consistent course downward, if not plunge. Instead, the opposite happened.

We found four states that have posted three-year statistics: Kentucky's increased by 3.2 percent from 2000 to 2003. Michigan's increased by 11.3 percent from 2000 to 2003. Pennsylvania's increased by 1.9 percent from 1999 to 2002. Colorado's rates skyrocketed 111 percent. We found 12 additional states that reported statistics for 2001 and 2002. Eight states saw an increase in abortion rates (14.6 percent average increase), and four saw a decrease (4.3 percent average).
I found the site Krane was working from: William Robert Johnston has done fine research into the question. As Stassen and Krane said, most states do not have figures past 2000.

Johnston says, however, "For U.S. states, abortion ratios and percentages are based on abortion figures from different sources with different completeness; the mixed figures are not reliable time series."

Undaunted, the authors continue their political hit:
Under Bush, the decade-long trend of declining abortion rates appears to have reversed. Given the trends of the 1990s, 52,000 more abortions occurred in the United States in 2002 than would have been expected before this change of direction.
Note the year. If I remember correctly, something important happened in 2001 that affected the U.S. economy quite strongly, and it was not caused by the presidential administration. Nevertheless, the unemployment rate for 2002 ranged from 5.6 to 6.0 percent, lower than in 1990, when the abortion rate was at its historical plateau.
For anyone familiar with why most women have abortions, this is no surprise:

Two-thirds of women who have abortions cite "inability to afford a child" as their primary reason (Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life). In the Bush presidency, unemployment rates increased half again. Not since Herbert Hoover had there been a net loss of jobs during a presidency until the current administration. Average real incomes decreased, and for seven years the minimum wage has not been raised to match inflation. With less income, many prospective mothers fear another mouth to feed.
Yes, the unemployment rates increased from their bottom in April of 2000, but they are still in range with the rates of the Clinton administration, and lower than much of that period. Bush is not responsible for a recession that began before he took office, nor for the effects of 9/11.

But we were talking about abortion. Children beyond birth are also expensive; would the authors justify their murder as well?
Half of all women who abort say they do not have a reliable mate. And men who are jobless usually do not marry. In the 16 states, there were 16,392 fewer marriages than the year before, and 7,869 more abortions. As male unemployment increases, marriages fall and abortion rises.

Women worry about health care for themselves and their children. Since 5.2 million more people have no health insurance now than before this presidency -- with women of childbearing age overrepresented in those 5.2 million -- abortion increases.
As interesting as these women's reporting is, it has limited pertinence to determining social policy, because there's no way of knowing whether their assessment is correct. Would they have enough money? Would they have enough support? Could they find adoptive parents for their children? They don't know because they didn't try. How much does rationalization enter the picture? How much ignorance?
My wife and I know -- as does my son David -- that doctors, nurses, hospitals, medical insurance, special schooling and parental employment are crucial for a special child. David attended the Kentucky School for the Blind, as well as schools for children with cerebral palsy and other disabilities. He was mainstreamed in public schools as well. We have two other sons and five grandchildren, and we know that every mother, every father and every child needs public and family support.
If public support a la John Kerry is what is required to reduce the abortion rate, let's do a quick and dirty look at that bastion of sophisticated social policy: Canada. Johnston reports a Canadian abortion rate of 24.3 percent in 2000 (so we don't know what the Bush Administration did to the Canadian abortion rate either), compared to--hold your hats--24.4 percent in the United States. There's plenty of reason to implement a Canadian social-welfare system.
What does this tell us? Economic policy and abortion are not separate issues; they form one moral imperative. Rhetoric is hollow, mere tinkling brass, without health care, insurance, jobs, child care and a living wage. Pro-life in deed, not merely in word, means we need a president who will do something about jobs, health insurance and support for mothers.
It tells me that the authors are a couple of shills for the Democratic party who don't give a rip about the innocent unborn.

The smarmy self-righteousness of the ethics professor takes the cake though: "Congratulate me on not killing my blind son." Congratulations, Prof. Stassen. I wonder how the boy would feel about being used to promote the candidacy of a man who opposed the ban on partial-birth abortion and who has promised his pro-abortion supporters that any judge he appoints will keep the "right" to abortion in place.
Glen Stassen is the Lewis B. Smedes Professor of Christian Ethics at Fuller Theological Seminary, in Pasadena, Calif. He can be e-mailed at gstassen@fuller.edu.

Krane is an independent investigative journalist in Philadelphia.Readers can write to him at 151 Tulpehocken, Philadelphia, PA 19144 or Coordinator@FairElections.us.

I'm sure the authors would be happy to hear from us. Oh, and Gary is looking for a chick to go canoeing with after the election is over. He's going to need a break.

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