The Corner

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Spinning an Abortion Study


This week the Alan Guttmacher Institute (AGI) released a report entitled “Abortion Worldwide: A Decade of Uneven Progress.” The media have been hard at work spinning its findings. Both the Associated Press and USA Today have reported the finding that abortion rates in countries with protective abortion laws are similar to abortion rates in countries with permissive laws — hinting strongly that protective legislation does little to protect unborn children. The BBC was even more blunt, running an article with the headline “Bans ‘do not cut abortion rate.’”

However, the media’s analysis is faulty. Most of the countries where abortion is prohibited are in Africa, the Middle East, and Latin America. These countries have low per capita income and a higher incidence of social pathologies that may increase the perceived need for abortion. This nuance is not picked up in any of the media coverage of the AGI report.

Interestingly, AGI has also released research that demonstrates the effectiveness of pro-life laws. This summer it released a literature review showing that 20 of 24 studies found that public funding of abortion increased abortion rates. Other AGI research has demonstrated that parental-involvement laws and well-designed informed-consent laws also reduce the incidence of abortion. Unfortunately, research like that typically receives scant attention from the mainstream media.

– Michael J. New is an assistant professor of political science at the University of Alabama and a visiting fellow at the Witherspoon Institute in Princeton, N.J.