On Monday, the Centers for Disease Control finally set a release date for their annual report on abortion statistics. The 2007 Abortion Surveillance Report will be published in Mortality and Morbidity Weekly Report on February 25, 2011. A number of liberal bloggers, most notably MediaMatters, have been eager to take the pro-life movement to task for our alleged paranoia about the Obama administration’s interest in hiding abortion data.
However, the Monday announcement capped several days of backtracking and mistatements by the CDC — which caused legitimate concern among pro-lifers. The story started on Thursday when Erick Erickson of RedState.com was puzzled as to why the annual Abortion Surveillance Report was not released in November as it had been in years past. After making some phone calls, he got ahold of Rhonda Smith from the CDC’s press office in Atlanta. She stated that the CDC “will not have stats available at any time in the near future” and there “are no plans for them to come out any time soon.”
After RedState.com posted a story about this, the CDC quickly backtracked. They contacted RedState.com and said that the Abortion Surveillance Report is “tentatively scheduled for release this month.” The claimed that the delay was because “the population data needed to develop rate/ratio statistics was not available.” However, even at this time, they did not provide a specific release date for the data. It was not until Monday that the CDC set a release date of February 25.
The whole episode was very puzzling. Every year since 2002, the CDC has always released its annual Abortion Surveillance Report during the last two weeks of November. That did not happen this year. Furthermore, their stated reason for the delay did not add up because the population data necessary to calculate abortion rates and ratios has already been collected by the U.S. Census Bureau. As such, the delay, the backtracking, and the fact that the CDC failed to provide a specific release date until today were all valid reasons for concern.
At any rate, the abortion statistics provided by the CDC will continue to be useful to the pro-life movement. They document the prevalence of abortion in the United States. They have provided evidence of the effectiveness of various types of pro-life legislation. Finally, these statistics offer good evidence of the incremental progress the pro-life movement has made over the years. The pro-life movement, as always, was wise to remain vigilant.
— Michael J. New is an assistant professor of political science at the University of Alabama and a fellow at the Witherspoon Institute of Princeton, N.J.