Saturday, January 09, 2010

Operation Safe X

Nothing sophisticated here. Just some simple logic applied to some statistics.

Sometimes people die when they engage in Activity X. Below is a chart showing deaths from Activity X over a multi-decade span.

During this time, there were three public policy changes, with the stated goal of reducing deaths from Activity X. We'll call it Operation Safe X. At one of the points below, there was limited implementation of Operation Safe X. At a subsequent point, there was a significant increase in implementation of Operation Safe X. And at a third point below, there was widespread nationwide implementation of Operation Safe X. Operation Safe X was declared to be a public health triumph.

There was another public policy change made during the time period below. Call it Operation Nasty. Proponents of Operation Safe X told us that if Operation Nasty was put into effect, it would cause a significant increase in deaths from Activity X.

Can you spot the three points in which Operation Safe X was put into limited, widespread, and total implementation?

Can you spot the point in which Operation Nasty was put into effect?

Now I'll be a bit more specific. Operation Safe X was legalization of abortion. At one point, states started loosening abortion laws, allowing legal abortions for social reasons and not just for medical reasons. At the next point, based on the purported success of this change in laws, New York and California legalized abortion on demand. And at the third point, Roe vs. Wade established legal abortion nationwide.

And Operation Nasty? That was the Hyde Amendment, restricting federal funds for elective abortions.

Limited legalization took place in 1968 -- Point G. New York and California's sweeping abortion law changes were in 1970 -- Point H. And Roe, supposedly ushering in the Golden Age and constituting the most significant public health victory in addressing abortion mortality, was at Point I.

The Hyde Amendment, which we were told would flood the morgues of America with coathanger-impaled women, went into effect in 1977 - Point J.

Does it really look to you as if Point I is the point at which the greatest public health improvement in abortion deaths was made? Point H? Point G?

Or was something else happening that was more significant?

And does it look like Point J marked some turning point, reversing the supposedly spectacular results of Roe?

Abortion advocates love to do data massage. They will point out -- quite truthfully -- that abortion deaths fell after legalization. What they omit is that abortion deaths had been falling, and at a much more impressive rate, long before the first states started to decriminalize abortion, long before New York and California made their sweeping changes, long before Roe vs Wade.

Are they claiming credit for somebody else's success?

It sure looks that way to me.

Why would they do such a thing?


OperationCounterstrike said...

I agree there was a lot of alarmism about the Hyde Amendment. Just as now there is alarmism about the alleged "shortage" of abortion docs. In fact the number of abortion docs is determined almost entirely by the demand for abortions.

Did you all see the Forbes article about why insurance companies pay for abortions? Jill Stanek blogged about it. The reason is ... brace yourself ... abortions save money! And of course, if the national health plan pays for abortions, that will save money too, for exactly the same reason.

What should we do with the money we will save by having our national health plan cover abortions? Should we return it to the taxpayers as a tax-cut? Pay off some of the national debt? Pay our soldiers more? Spend it on fighting terror? Building roads? We could even give some of the savings to faith-based charities.

Lilliput said...

Hi Christine

Happy New Year

The graph is very interesting but I wanted to know if its a number thing ie the numbers of women having abortions rose when it was legalised but still the proportion that died was much less the before Roe. Also because it was illegal I am sure that a number of women died of botched abostions prior to Roe that were recorded as other types of deaths so they couldn't be prosecuted and therefore counted.

Christina Dunigan said...

Howdy, Lil!

Those are great questions.

I have little doubt that the number of abortions went way up with legalization. That's one of my arguments against it -- that legalization doesn't just ensure that women who would have had abortions anyway can now have them safely, but subjects more women to abortions. If Christopher Tietze's research is solid -- which I think it is -- the increase in abortions with legalization isn't merely because women who were otherwise inclined to have their babies end up aborting them instead (though no doubt this is often the case). Tietze's research indicated that women inclined to use abortion take more risks with contraception when abortion is readily available, and thus have more pregnancies that they end up aborting.

As for the idea that more abortion deaths were hidden before legalization than after, I don't buy that at all. Before legalization, merely failing to report the death as an abortion death was a crime. Tips from funeral directors, coroners, and ordinary citizens were taken very seriously. After all, it wasn't a crime to have a patient die of pneumonia; it was to kill her performing an abortion. It was murder. Law enforcement tends to take murder cases pretty seriously.

With legalization, abortion deaths were no longer homicides. They were a civil matter between the surviving family members and the doctor. There was no longer any reason to investigate. If a funeral director were to call the cops and say, "Dr. Jones said Susan died from deep leg vein thrombosis, but I think it was an abortion," the cops would say, "Your point being?" Unless the family wants to get into hideous litigation and the character assassination of their loved one that the abortionist's lawyer will do, the death gets noted as not being from an abortion and that's that.

Anonymous said...


If your only point here is that abortion advocates use rhetorical flourishes, then who cares? Every political movement (including the ones you support) does so. I’m not sure what’s the big deal.

Also, you are playing fast and loose with statistics. Lillput’s criticism is correct – if you don’t correct for population change, then the results are misleading.

But more damaging, you are confusing descriptive statistics (which describe a state of affairs) with inferential statistics (which allow you to make claims about associations among variables). What you have here is descriptive, and allows you no warrant to make inferences.


Christina Dunigan said...

Chad (who strangely only shows up when OC is here) --

Maybe you can explain how these statistics satisfactorily prove that legalizing abortion was a public health triumph.

Anonymous said...


Maybe you can explain how these statistics satisfactorily prove that legalizing abortion was a public health triumph.

Maybe you didn't read my previous post. Or maybe you didn't understand it.

This graph as you've presented it doesn't "prove" anything. They are descriptive not inferential data.


OperationCounterstrike said...

OK, I confess. Chad Tonka is secretly me. --OC.

Tonal Bliss said...

Did anyone say dissociative identity disorder?

OperationCounterstrike said...

Granny Grump is secretly me, too!