Friday, November 11, 2005

How many deaths?

Life Dynamics Inc. (LDI) has never claimed to have uncovered every case in which a woman has died from a legal abortion. Their focus is on the individual story. But still, we can count how many deaths LDI was able to discover, and compare those numbers to the "official" abortion mortality statistics from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and see what we can see.

Life Dynamics numbers are obtained by counting the deaths from the "Tombstone Project" poster for each year, then adding stories from "The Blackmun Wall" for that year, for which Life Dynamics is unable to give names. This will give us the total legal abortion deaths Life Dynamics was able to find. I posted a table here. (It will open in a new window so you can refer to it as you read.) Years in red are years in which Life Dynamics found fewer deaths than did the CDC. Years in black are years in which Life Dynamics found the same number of deaths as the CDC. Years in green are years in which Life Dynamics found more deaths than the CDC.

Clearly, Life Dynamics is not finding all of the abortion deaths, since many years the CDC found more. But clearly also, the CDC is not finding them all. In fact, as time goes on, they seem to become worse and worse at finding abortion deaths.

The CDC has access to documents Life Dynamics can't get -- death certificates and coroner reports from jurisdictions with closed records, for example. The CDC also can easily obtain medical records from doctors and hospitals; Life Dynamics can not. In the 1970s, this advantage shows clearly, with the CDC finding far more abortion deaths than Life Dynamics finds. But in the early 1980s, this trend flattens out, with LDI and the CDC running neck and neck. In the late 1980s, Life Dynamics, with its limited access to records, outstrips the CDC at the job taxpayers are paying them to do: find out how many women are dying from legal abortions.

Clearly, nobody really knows how many women are dying from legal abortion. And the people in charge of keeping track dropped the ball.

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