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Richert Redux


Scott Richert defends the claim that abortion levels are rising under this president. He claims that this conclusion follows from data “that almost all national pro-life groups accept.” I don’t buy his argument at all.

He’s mixing and matching two sets of numbers: some from the Centers for Disease Control and some from the Alan Guttmacher Institute, which is more authoritative on this subject. AGI reports 1.53 million abortions for 1992 and 1.31 million for 2000. So there was a decline in abortion during Clinton’s presidency–a generally accepted fact. So far, Richert and I basically see the same picture.

AGI hasn’t published new numbers for the Bush presidency. Richert uses a lower estimate for 2000–an estimate he came up with himself using the CDC’s incomplete data. Then, for the post-2000 years, Richert goes back to using AGI numbers. He may not realize he is doing this. He says he is using numbers that pro-life groups accept. Perhaps he is getting his numbers from the National Right to Life Committee–certainly a major pro-life group. The NRLC has attempted to estimate how many abortions have taken place in the United States since Roe v. Wade. That required it to make estimates for 2001 through 2004. What to do in the absence of data for those years? The NRLC decided that a rough estimate that would work for their purposes was to just take the AGI estimate for 2000 forward–assuming that the number of abortions had neither decreased nor increased.

If you compared the NRLC number for 2003 to the AGI number on which it was based, you would find that abortion hasn’t increased. It’s stayed the same. (Which, of course, wouldn’t tell you anything interesting.) If you used CDB numbers throughout, you’d have abortion declining from 1.36 million in 1992 to 857,000 for 2000 and then 853,000 in 2001.

We don’t have any numbers showing that abortion has continued to decline in the Bush years–and maybe it hasn’t, what with RU-486 coming on the market in September 2000–but we don’t have any data showing that it’s increased either. And national pro-life groups, notably the NRLC, certainly do not accept the contention that abortion levels are rising.


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