Monday, June 02, 2008

Has anybody seen this bogus claim?

Asymmetrical Information has this post, Department of Awful Statistics, commenting on this quote:

"Furthermore, apparently one out of every three illegal operations had serious enough consequences to require a stay in hospital: in 1960, forty-two percent of all emergency admissions into hospitals were due to illegal abortions." H. Morgentaler, Abortion and Contraception (1982) pp. 110-11.

Let's apply Logic 101 just to see if this passes basic muster. Let's start with the idea that illegal abortionists were putting fully a third of their patients in the hospital. Not just a trip to the ER, mind you, but an admission. Illegal abortions were illegal. They were crimes. They were investigated by the police. Could any abortionist have stayed in business long if he or she was calling that much attention to the practice? This seems unlikely.

And we're told that abortion was just as common then as it is now, which would have meant 1.2 million abortions a year and 400,000 women admitted to the hospital annually for abortion complications, and those 400,000 women would be 42% of emergency admissions.

Now, the only data I could readily find were for 1997, but it gives us a general idea. They go by discharge data rather than admission data, but again, it's all I can find:

Diagnosis - Thousands of discharges - % of ER-admitted discharges

1. Pneumonia - 756 - 5.8
2. Congestive heart failure - 652 - 5.0
3. Hardening of the arteries of the heart - 587 - 4.5
4. Heart attack - 450 - 3.5
5. Stroke - 434 - 3.4
6. Nonspecific chest pain - 396 - 3.1
7. Chronic obstructive lung disease - 350 - 2.7
8. Irregular heartbeat - 312 - 2.4
9. Asthma - 282 - 2.2
10. Blood infection (septicemia) - 271 - 2.1

If we imagine a similar distribution of causes of emergency hospitalization, this would place abortion someplace between nonspecific chest pain and stroke, and would have put abortion in the top ten reasons for admission -- but it would still only account for about 3.2 percent of admissions, not 42% as claimed.

In order for abortion to account for 42% of emergency admissions, it would have had to be not only the #1 cause of hospital admissions, but it would have to outstrip the next most common cause of admission by a factor of seven! The next nine causes of admission would account for only about 20% of admissions! (They's be 37% of the remaining 58% of admissions.) And we're not even getting near mental health admissions, car crashes, farm and industrial accidents, and violence. And, if abortions were accounting for 42% of hospital admissions, there'd be nearly 5.5 million abortion-related hospital admission -- 4.6 times more admissions for complications than there were abortions to begin with. So instead of 1/3 of aborting women being admitted, we'd have an average of 4.6 hospital admissions to treat the complications of each abortion performed.

Admittedly these aren't admissions data for the 1950s or 1960s, but the math still shows that the numbers just can't mesh. In order for 400,000 hospital admissions to be 42% of total admissions, there would have had to be 952,380 total emergency admissions -- compared to over 13 million in 1997. That would mean that there were only about 7% as many people being admitted to the hospital on an emergency basis then as compared to post-legalization, or more than thirteen times more emergency hospitalizations a year now than pre-legalization.

In the late 1950's, 1/8 of Americans was admitted -- emergency and non-emergency combined -- to a hospital annually. In 1959, for example, the US population was 177,829,628. That would mean nearly 15 million total hospital admissions. There were about 35 million total hospital admissions in 1997 -- only a little more than twice as many admissions as in the late 1950s, not thirteen times as many.

Again, it doesn't hold water.

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