Wednesday, 5 September 2012

If you gotta lie. . .

. . . something is seriously wrong with your cause.

LifeShite reports that an old pal of DJ's and father (snerk) of the current BAD (biased, agenda-driven) Abortion Science campaign, David Reardon, is at it again.
A new study of the medical records for nearly half a million women in Denmark reveals significantly higher maternal death rates following abortion compared to delivery. This finding has confirmed similar large-scale population studies conducted in Finland and the United States, but contradicts the widely held belief that abortion is safer than childbirth.
Funny that. It's the complete opposite finding from a study published in January this year that, not surprisingly, concluded that giving birth is 14 times more lethal than abortion.
Dr. Elizabeth Raymond from Gynuity Health Projects in New York City and Dr. David Grimes of the University of North Carolina School of Medicine, Chapel Hill, found that between 1998 and 2005, one woman died during childbirth for every 11,000 or so babies born.

That compared to one woman of every 167,000 who died from a legal abortion.

The researchers also cited a study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention which found that, from 1998 to 2001, the most common complications associated with pregnancy -- including high blood pressure, urinary tract infections and mental health conditions -- happened more often in women who had a live birth than those who got an abortion.
I say 'unsurprisingly' because obviously women who give birth are pregnant a lot longer than women who terminate, so one factor is simply odds.

The researchers on the real sciencey study are quick to point out that both outcomes are very safe, but that to alarm women considering abortion with bogus health risks does no one any favours.

I was going to debunk this new study but thought I'd tweet the link to James C. Coyne, BAD science watcher, who very ably demolished Priscilla Coleman's latest.

Dr Coyne directed me to this blogpost of his in which Reardon makes a rather startling admission.
Did Priscilla Coleman write her review with the intention of building a literature to restrict access to abortion? David Reardon is Coleman's co-author on ten of the articles included in her meta-analysis and according to the NY Times is know as the "Moses of the anti-abortion movement." In an article, he announced his intention rather explicitly:
For the purpose of passing restrictive laws to protect women from unwanted and/or dangerous abortions, it does not matter if people have a pro-life view. The ambivalent majority of people who are willing to tolerate abortion in "some cases" are very likely to support informed consent legislation and abortion clinic regulations, for example, because these proposals are consistent with their desire to protect women. In some cases, it is not even necessary to convince people of abortion's dangers. It is sufficient to simply raise enough doubts about abortion that they will refuse to actively oppose the proposed anti-abortion initiative. In other words, if we can convince many of those who do not see abortion to be a "serious moral evil" that they should support anti-abortion policies that protect women and reduce abortion rates, that is a sufficiently good end to justify NRS efforts. Converting these people to a pro-life view, where they respect life rather than simply fear abortion, is a second step. The latter is another good goal, but it is not necessary to the accomplishment of other good goals, such as the passage of laws that protect women from dangerous abortions and thereby dramatically reduce abortion rates.
The intent of this BAD science is -- explicitly -- to make women fear abortion.

They admit they are simply creating doubts and raising fears.

This is NOT science. This is propaganda.


Beijing York said...

I'll tell you one thing, no way am I trusting an ELECTRICAL ENGINEER to determine what is safe or not with my lady parts. Reardon's match box doctorate degree in bioethics makes Mags Somerville look like a legitimate academic and that's not saying much.

Sixth Estate said...

Okay, well here's the first part of the article that made me scratch my head (taken from the download of the article at the link given):

Medical records for the entire population of women born in Denmark between 1962 and 1991 and were alive in 1980, were linked to death certificates."

Is this a plain weird statement, or has my command of English broken down?

More to the point, assuming the numbers are real, it's pretty hard to deny that they're onto something valid here: that women who get abortions are more likely to die in a subsequent period than women who give birth. The question is whether the abortion causes the higher death rate. I kind of doubt it, and his statistics here can't actually make that argument, either.

The difference between these two articles seems to be that the Obstetrics & Gynecology one measures death from complications of the procedure, whereas the more dubious study seems to be counting any death from any cause in the window (from 6 months to 10 years) after the procedure. Interestingly it suggests that the odds of dying from ANY cause within 6 months after giving birth in Denmark are actually lower than the maternal mortality rate in the United States. Stats are fun, no?

It's also interesting that they didn't bother to compare it to the death rates of similarly aged women who had no pregnancies at all, which would seem to be a relevant control group. I can't speak to Denmark, but in Canada, the overall death rate for women in their 20s is about 30 per 100,000. That is approximately the same as the death rates for the miscarriage and early-term abortion rates in Denmark -- which is to say that, if the Canadian and Danish stats are similar (which I freely admit they might not be), abortion really has no significant impact on mortality rates.

Finally, on your topic of the inappropriateness of big scary numbers, from my hasty math it seems as though even if Reardon was right, what we're actually talking about is a difference in mortality rates equal to around 1 in 10,000 pregnant women per year after pregnancy, in between abortion on one hand and live birth on the other.

If we're going to make public policy decisions on the basis of risk levels like that, we'll have a very long list of other activities we'll have to curtail. For most if not all of them, the right will start getting very squeamish about "nanny state" intrusiveness. Ironically, if they're going to oppose abortion on the grounds that it's dangerous to women who freely consent to the procedure, they're presumably going to have to support the restriction of all kinds of other risky behaviours. Banning alcohol, high-fat foods, and tobacco for instance, would be another good place to start. What's that? Suddenly they're not so interested in "nanny state" politics after all? Quelle surprise...

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