Assume the Position

Tuesday, May 24, 2005
Howard Dean Lies - Latest Guttmacher Estimates Show Continued Decline in Abortions

On the May 22, 2005, edition of NBC's Meet the Press, besides his major flub confusing Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein, Howard Dean came out with a huge, bald lie: "You know that abortions have gone up 25 percent since George Bush was president?"

Coincidentally, the Alan Guttmacher Institute (AGI), which, like-it-or-not, is the gold-standard for US abortion statistics, published its national abortion estimates for 2001 and 2002 on May 18, 2005. They updated their abortion "Facts in Brief" section and made their report (.5 Mb PDF) available on the web. From the report (emphasis added):

The declines in abortion incidence seen in 2001 and 2002 were continuations of declines seen in the 1990s. Between 1992 and 1996, the annualized decline was 3.4% per year, while between 1996 and 2000, it was 1.2% per year. The annualized decline between 2000 and 2002 was 0.9% per year, suggesting that the last two years reflect a continuation of the trend of the late 1990s, albeit at a slightly slower rate of decline.

Dean's false assertion is apparently a gross exaggeration of a previously debunked pre-election study cum op/ed by Dr. Glen Harold Stassen, Lewis B. Smedes Professor of Christian Ethics at Fuller Theological Seminary.

Stassen got his op/ed into both religious venues and standard newspapers, and then his basic conclusion (an increase in abortions under Bush) started being repeated and exaggerated by by various anti-Bush liberals. Malkin's archives show that in January 2005, Hillary Clinton accurately represented Stassen's corrected findings, "…eight states have seen an increase in abortion rates and four saw a decrease;" by March, Nicholas Kristoff exaggerated Stassens conclusion into "… [abortions] have increased significantly during President Bush's presidency" (emphasis mine); and now Howard Dean has gone so far as to assert a ridiculously high figure ("25 percent") for this supposed increase in abortions — an increase that did not happen.

Stassen came to his conclusion based on data from only 16-states. At the time, AGI and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) national abortion estimates only went through 2000. The various debunkings and refutations of Stassen's conclusions were based on his methodology, outright mistakes, and questionable extrapolations he drew from the data (see National Right to Life Committee 1, 2, 3, and Heritage Foundation WebMemo #598). Now, however, the CDC has updated its estimates through 2001, Abortion Surveillance --- United States, 2001 (also available as a 2.5 Mb PDF), and AGI's go through 2002. These reports show that those who debunked Stassen's methodology and conclusions were correct - there was no national abortion increase in either 2001 or 2002. (Since Stassen only had data from 5 states for 2003, that year wasn't even worth considering; that he included it in his conclusion and op/ed says much.)

UPDATE - May 27, 2005: Looks like Charmaine Yoest on Reasoned Audacity was a day earlier than I on using the latest AGI numbers to bust Howard Dean. (Via Tom Maguire, who additionally points out that Matthew Yglesias and Kevin Drum were also repeating Stassen's abortion increase as fact as they peddeled the Kerry-DNC talking points before and after the election.)

Original content copyright © 2002-2005 Lynxx Pherrett. All rights reserved.