Saturday, July 23, 2005

One more time, with feeling

I blogged earlier this week about how abortion advocacy claims of 5,000 to 10,000 maternal deaths per year from illegal abortion just don't pass the common sense test. About 50,000 women of childbearing age were dying per year of all causes, and it simply defies belief to say that ten to twenty percent of them were dying from botched abortions. Also, roughly 1,500 women per year were officially noted as having died from all pregnancy and childbirth related causes combined. It defies belief that there were three to six times more women dying of criminal abortions, with their deaths escaping detection despite intense efforts by law enforcement and public health officials combined.

But some folks still aren't convinced. So there's one other way we can check to see if the claims even remotely make sense. That's to look at death rates among women of reproductive age before and after legalization, and see if there was a 10-20% drop without a corresponding drop among other demographic groups.

So, we'll look at death rates for 1967 and 1977. Since the first states started really loosening their abortion laws in 1968, New York and California established abortion-on-demand in 1970, and Roe came down in 1973, surely if legalization was having such a dramatic impact on women's mortality we'd see the difference.

The number of deaths per 1,000 among females age 15-24 was 0.6 through the decade ending in 1967. For 25-34 year-old females, the death rate fell to 1.0 in 1967, from 1.1 the previous nine years. For 35-44 year-old women, the rate was 2.3 in 1967, as is was for most of the previous nine years. The age group below childbearing age, 5-14 years old, had a death rate of 0.3. The age group above childbearing age, 45-54, had a death rate of 5.1. Just to be on the safe side, assuming that a lot of "change-of-life babies" were being aborted, and their mothers dying as a result, we'll go into the 55-64 age range, among whom the death rate was 11.2.

Now fast forward to 1977. The number of deaths per 1,000 females age 15-24 was 0.6, as it had been for the previous four years. It has moved up to 0.7 from 1968-1973, then came back down. For women age 25-34, the death rate was 0.8 in 1977, showing a continued downward trend that is paralleled among males in that age group, whose death rate fell from 2.1 to 1.9 in the same period. For women age 35-44, the number was 1.8, having fallen gradually for the decade. Again, males in that age range saw an even larger decline, from 4.1 to 3.2. At the fringe of childbearing age, 45-54, we saw a large drop, to 4.4. Again, the drop in the death rate among males was even greater, from 9.9 in 1968 to 8.1 in 1977. And among females in the 55-64 age group, the death rate was 9.9, a dramatic drop, similar to the drop in the death rate among males in that age range, from 23.4 in 1968 to 19.4 in 1977. And the death rate among females younger than childbearing age, 5-14 years of age, was 0.3.

The greatest drops in mortality rates over the decade that saw abortion legalized were among men, and women too old to get pregnant. Wow! Either legalizing abortion had some sort of ripple effect that benefitted men and post-menopausal women more than it did women of childbearing age, or it didn't have much of an impact at all.

Let's look at those numbers again:
  • The death rate among females under childbearing age (5-14 years old) stayed steady at 0.3 deaths per 1,000 for the decade.
  • The death rate among females in their early childbearing years (15-25) stayed at or near 0.6 for the decade.
  • The death rate among females in their later childbearing years (25-34) fell from 1.0 to 0.8, a fall that was the paralleled among males in that age group, whose death rate fell from 2.1 to 1.9.
  • The death rate among females at the end of their childbearing years (35-44) fell from 2.3 to 1.1, a fall that was less than that among males of that age range, whose death rate fell from 4.1 to 3.2.
  • The death rate among women just past childbearing (45-54) but still possibly able to become pregnant in some cases, fell from 5.1 to 4.4; males in that age range saw their death rate fall from 9.9 to 8.1.
  • The death rate among clearly post-menopausal women (55-64) fell from 11.2 to 9.9, similar to the fall in death rates for men, from 23.4 to 19.4

If 5,000 to 10,000 women of childbearing age were dying from botched criminal abortions, we should have seen a drop in deaths among females among childbearing age that was ten to twenty percent greater than the drop among either males or among females outside reproductive age. But we didn't. Clearly there was no mysterious cause of death among fertile females that vanished with the legalization of abortion.

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