Late in 2011, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) released abortion surveillance data for the year 2008. The figures indicate that the number of abortions declined very slightly from 2007. Or so we think. Federal reporting standards for abortion are notoriously weak and several states typically refuse to report data to the CDC. The 2008 figures are no exception. California, Florida, Maryland, and New Hampshire all failed to report complete data to the CDC. In fact, only 43 states have reported abortion data to the CDC every year between 1999 and 2008. Furthermore, even among states that report, there exist legitimate questions about both the consistency and reliability of this data.
I have always felt that enacting stronger federal reporting requirements should be an important prioriry for beltway pro-lifers. Better data would provide valuable information about the the impact of pro-life laws and the efficacy of various types of contraception and sex education programs. Stronger reporting standards may not be a particularly sexy topic to pro-life activists, but I still think it would be worth an investment in time and resources.
Interestingly, both the Guttmacher Institute and the CDC now have released abortion data for 2000 and 2008. Both datasets indicate that the number of abortions performed in America declined during the George W. Bush administration. During the 2004 election cycle, many mainstream media outlets devoted a considerable amount of coverage to a flawed study which purportedly showed an abortion increase in the early years of the the Bush presidency. The abortion decline during the Clinton presidency is also a favorite statistic for many mainstream-media talking heads. In the interest of fairness, one would hope the media would publicly correct the record and actually report on the abortion decline that occurred during George W. Bush’s presidency. Unfortunately, the silence has been deafening.
Michael J. New is an assistant professor of political science at the University of Michigan Dearborn, a fellow at the Witherspoon Institute, and an adjunct scholar at the Charlotte Lozier Institute in Washington, D.C.
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