The Bogus Abortion Adventure

Way back on October 25, 2004, PRI debunked the false claim, coincidently made just before the elections, that the number of abortions was rising under President Bush.

Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY), Sen. John Kerry (D-MA), and Democratic National Committee (DNC) Chairman Howard Dean perpetuated that bogus claim anyway. Now that the Alan Guttmacher Institute and have killed that assertion beyond hope of plausible revival, Clinton, Kerry, and Dean may want to correct the record the next time they have the chance.

“Glen Harold Stassen, Professor of Christian Ethics at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California, has published an opinion piece claiming that abortions are increasing under pro-life President George W. Bush, after declining under pro-abortion President Bill Clinton,” we wrote in October. “He attacks Bush for being pro-life in word, but not in deed, for not offering pregnant women 'health care, health insurance, jobs, child care, and a living wage.'… Both his facts and his argument are wrong.”

According to Annenberg (, Hillary Clinton told a group of “family planning” activists on January 24, 2005, “But unfortunately, in the last few years, while we are engaged in an ideological debate instead of one that uses facts and evidence and common sense, the rate of abortion is on the rise in some states. In the three years since President Bush took office, 8 states saw an increase in abortion rates (14.6% average increase), and four saw a decrease (4.3% average), so we have a lot of work still ahead of us.”

As FactCheck noted, “Clinton was careful not to state flatly that abortions were increasing nationally. She spoke only of 'some states' in which the rate had increased. But she invited her listeners to conclude that the national trend to fewer abortions had reversed itself since Bush took office.”

Said Kerry on NBC's Meet the Press a few days after Clinton spoke, “And do you know that in fact abortion has gone up in these last few years with the Draconian policies that Republicans have…?” And just last month, on the May 24 edition of Meet the Press, Dean said, “You know that abortions have gone up 25% since George Bush was President?” Since Stassen's figures showed an increase of 4%, the source of Dean's number is a mystery. FactCheck says the DNC won't say where it originated. Maybe it came to Dean in a scream.

“For about a year now a myth has been promoted that abortions have increased since President Bush was elected in 2000,” complained pro-life Congressman Chris Smith (R-NJ) on the House floor May 26. “This myth was launched publicly when Glen Stassen and Gary Krane published a piece in October of 2004 [Stassen had previously e-published a solo article], called 'Why abortion rate is up in Bush years' that attempted to make the case that President Bush's pro-life policies have not been effective in decreasing abortion.”

Says FactCheck, “A close reading of Stassen's article makes clear that he didn't even pretend to have comprehensive national data on abortion rates. He said he looked at data from 16 states only — and didn't even name most of them.”

Planned Parenthood's Alan Guttmacher Institute, an authoritative source for American abortion statistics that even we pro-lifers accept, says that abortions have declined under Bush. Stassen used data from 16 states to come up with his assertions; Guttmacher has data from 43 states which it used to see if Stassen's assertion was correct. On May 19 — before Dean mouthed off — it released its results. It found that the number of abortions decreased by 0.8% in 2001 and another 0.8% in 2002. The abortion rate went down by 1% in 2001 and another 0.9% in 2002. (Data for 2003 and 2004 are not yet available.) While it is true that the abortion rate is not declining as fast as it did for part of the 1990s, it is declining. Stassen conceded to FactCheck on May 26 that Guttmacher's report is “significantly better” than his own.

Now if only leading liberal politicians would face facts as well, and then this little bogus abortion adventure can come to an end.

Joseph A. D’Agostino is Vice President for Communications at the Population Research Institute, a non-profit organization dedicated to debunking the myth that the world is overpopulated.

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