Tuesday, April 25, 2006

How AGI defines "success"

HT: Imago Dei

Planned Parenthood Golden Gate issued a press release ironically titled, Guttmacher Institute Rates California Number One in Preventing Unintended Pregnancies

You'd think that to rate #1 in preventing unintended pregnancies, you'd have, well, the fewest unintended pregnancies. But California's abortion rate is #1 in the nation, not #50.

Then how did California, with its astronomical abortion rate, manage to rate #1 in "preventing unintended pregnancies"?
The study, Contraception Counts, rated states on service availability, laws and policies, and public funding to determine which states make the greatest efforts at preventing unintended pregnancies.

So the AGI gives an A for effort, not for results. So, based on the AGI's standards, the states that are best at "preventing unintended pregnancy" are 1. California, 2. Alaska, 3. South Carolina, 4. Alabama, and 5. New York.

The lowest ranked states were: 51. Nebraska, 50. North Dakota, 49. Indiana, 48. Ohio, 47. Utah.

Let's look at how these states rank in abortion rates (abortions per 1,000 live births, a good measure of what proportion of pregnancies were intended versus unintended.) I use the CDC rankings because they're more recent, and also because they count abortions among residents, including those who travel out-of-state for their abortions:

California is -- #1. Alaska is #35. South Carolina #29. Alabama is #28. New York is #2. Average ranking: 19

So of the states that AGI thinks are best at preventing unintended pregnancy, none of them are even in the top ten of lowest abortion rates! And the two states with the highest abortion rates get ranked #1 and #5 at "preventing unintended pregnancy"!

Nebraska rates #42 in abortion rate, North Dakota #46, Indiana #38, Ohio #17, and Utah #49. So four of the states ranked "worst" at "preventing unintended pregnancy" were in the bottom 20 for abortion rates, three of them in the bottom 10, two of them in the bottom 5. Average ranking: 38

So, the worse the state is at "preventing unintended pregnancies," the lower the abortion rate.

Tell me that makes any sense.

To my thinking, the five states that are best at preventing unintended pregnancies are Colorado, Idaho, Utah, South Dakota, and Arizona. These are the states with the lowest abortion rates. The states worse at preventing unintended pregnancy are California, New York, Florida, DC, and Delaware, the states with the highest abortion rates.

Would somebody please explain to me the logic that rates the state with the highest abortion rate the "best at preventing unintended pregnancies"?

Clearly, the AGI's idea of "success" is some strange, new usage of the word which I'd previously been unaware of, to paraphrase Arthur Dent.


Anonymous said...

Hi there - I know this is a very old post but I just came across it and wanted to comment. The Guttmacher report makes calculations based on national surveys of women and what they say about their pregnancies to determine "unintendedness" (whether the woman never wanted to have another child, whether she wanted to have one in the future but not right now, etc). They take these proportions -- which tend to be fairly reliable nationwide -- and also factor in number of abortions, so the number of unintended pregnancies is not just based on number of abortions. The reason abortions alone isn't a good measure is that in some states it's harder to get to an abortion provider, or for whatever reason women may feel more pressure not to have an abortion. That doesn't mean the pregnancy is not unintended.

So looking at estimates of how many unintended pregnancies there are in a state, as well as how many women use state family planning services, researchers can estimate how many unintended pregnancies are prevented through these services. I hope that helps to clarify your questions.

Christina Dunigan said...

But their measure of whether to grade a state isn't based on that. It's purely on "access" to contraceptives, efforts to promote contraceptives, etc.

They grade you on your methodology, not your results. Which is just stupid.