Is Anyone Accurate About Abortion Statistics?

When you think of abortions, or at least, the stereotype of someone who gets an abortion, is a young, single woman who was not on birth control can either not afford to have the baby or is not in an emotional position to raise a baby. However, the people who are getting abortions are not just that isolated group.

The Guttmacher Institute is an organization dedicated to collecting facts and statistics about abortions, state policies and regulations on contraceptives, sti’s, and pregnancies. They even have a database for all this information, outlining any detail I could think of about worldwide sexual health related issues, from how many abortion clinics there are to public expenditures for family planning to the socioeconomic characteristics of women who get abortions. Each fact has a link to where they got the information from, most of which are scientific journals published by them. Due to the nature of what data they are collecting, it’s largely left leaning, especially considering how much funding they get from Planned Parenthood. Some sources state that the way they collect their data is quite sketchy.

Often, for forgien countries, the way the Guttmacher Institute collects their data is through health professional surveys, in which they survey facilities and professionals on how many abortions there were. The content of the surveys and the professionals surveyed is unknown (Marc, 2012, Pathos). This information was based on a counter study that indicated all the flaws the Guttmacher institute had with collecting their data. In the Mexico Distrito Federal in 2007, they estimated there were between 137,145 and 194,875 induced abortions. In reality, there was just 10,137, and this was found out because the facilities were required to report to the government the exact numbers of how many abortions there were. The counter paper and this news article, however, only talk about this one instance. They do not talk about all the other regions of Mexico and if the estimates were correct or incorrect. Although it’s obviously arguable that the way they collect their data is not the best, it’s hard to imagine a better way, and without knowing any other circumstances where they were proved to be vastly exaggerating statistics, it’s hard to believe either side.

The statistics I was wanting to look at was not the Mexico statistics, but the ones in the United States in 2014. On their website, in the summary/background, it says:

“Between April 2014 and June 2015, we collected information from 8,380 respondents obtaining abortions at 87 facilities. We used a four-page, self-administered questionnaire available in English and Spanish… Participating facilities provided a total of 11,024 abortions during the survey period, yielding a response rate of 76%… Facilities eligible for participation included clinics and physicians’ offices that provided at least 30 abortions in 2011 (according to the Guttmacher Institute’s 2011 Abortion Provider Census9); hospitals were excluded from the survey because of past recruitment and logistical challenges. In 2011, hospitals accounted for 4% of all abortions,9  and it is unlikely that their exclusion biased the sample.”

They collected their own data like this because they said the CDC had holes in their data, and each state had different requirements for how to report the numbers and some states weren’t even in their report (Guttmacher Institute).

The way they collected this data seemed logical and like it would be accurate. However, due to the fact they’re funded by Planned Parenthood, it seems that they would have quite the incentive to fudge the numbers in a way that favors Planned Parenthood. It’s incredibly hard to get statistics about abortions, but maybe a better way would be by comparing and contrasting their numbers to those of the CDC, seeing which are vastly different, and seeing if there’s any way to combine the data.

The data anybody presents about abortions and the socioeconomic status, marital status, age, and otherwise has the potential to vastly shift people’s opinions of abortions. I made a table of the most interesting facts I saw from the Guttmacher Institute in 2014 compared to the CDC data from 2013. Here it is:

Guttmacher Institute (2014) CDC (2013) Comparison
“Nineteen percent of pregnancies (excluding miscarriages) in 2014 ended in abortion.[1]” “… 200 abortions per 1,000 live births.” I don’t really know if the CDC meant 200/1000 or 200/1200. Both are similar and close to 19%.
“Twelve percent of abortion patients in 2014 were adolescents” “In 2013, adolescents aged <15 and 15–19 years accounted for 0.3% and 11.4% of all abortions, respectively” Those are the same proportions.
“More than half of all U.S. abortion patients in 2014 were in their 20s: Patients aged 20–24 obtained 34% of all abortions, and patients aged 25–29 obtained 27%.[6]” “Women aged 20–24 and 25–29 years accounted for 32.7% and 25.9% of all abortions, respectively” Guttmacher is one percentage higher than the CDC.
“In contrast, women aged 30–34, 35–39, and ≥40 years accounted for 16.8%, 9.2%, and 3.6% of all abortions” I find it very interesting that Guttmacher did not present any data about women over 30.
“White patients accounted for 39% of abortion procedures in 2014, blacks for 28%., Hispanics for 25% and patients of other races and ethnicities for 9%.[6]” “Non-Hispanic white women and non-Hispanic black women accounted for the largest percentages of abortions (37.3% and 35.6%, respectively). Hispanic women and non-Hispanic women in the other race category accounted for smaller percentages (19.0% and 8.1%, respectively)” The CDC reported much higher numbers for black women than Guttmacher – a difference of 7.6%. The Guttmacher also reported 6% higher for hispanic people.
“Some 75% of abortion patients in 2014 were poor or low-income.” I really think the CDC should have published information about income.
“Fifty-nine percent of abortions in 2014 were obtained by patients who had had at least one birth.[6]” “Data from the 41 areas that reported the number of previous live births for women who obtained abortions in 2013 indicate that 40.2%, 45.6%, and 14.1% of these women had zero, one to two, or three or more previous live births, respectively” These numbers do seem within a reasonable range of each other.

 

Honestly, for me, the most interesting thing about this table I have just made is how the data was presented. The CDC stated it very factually and scientifically, whilst Guttmacher compared it much more biasedly. For example, in the row about people in their 20’s, Guttmacher starts off with “More than half of all US abortion patients were in their 20’s”, whilst the CDC just states the information and lets you figure out that math yourself. All of the numbers seem within a reasonable range of one another, except for the race thing, where the CDC and Guttmacher report different numbers about Hispanics and non-hispanic black women. Also, even though Guttmacher claimed that the CDC got all their information from the state, the CDC sourced Guttmacher and many other studies in the references. So I guess it makes sense that they have similar numbers. Even though Guttmacher was a little salty about the CDC when they wrote about them, I wonder if they actually combine numbers. It makes me wonder if it’s even possible to get a real accurate reading about abortion statistics.

This paper was originally going to be about who gets abortions, but I found researching if Guttmacher was accurate to be more interesting. At the end of the day I can honestly say: I have no idea. But it’s pretty biased. And one time, apparently, they had measurements for part of Mexico that were way out of bounds.

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