Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Abortion Statistics: Lies for Life

This post by Tim Worstall (thanks chez) gives the most biased interpretation of an already biased article I've seen in quite some time.

His post entitled "sex education works" quotes two statistics from a long article in the telegraph about UK abortion rates. I'll get to the statistics, but let me first point out that his "point" about sex education and abortion rates is not justified, as there is NOTHING in either of these articles that says anything about the levels of sex education increasing in the UK. Now, maybe there is some big debate that's ongoing that I don't know about, 'cause I don't live in the UK. But inferring a causal relationship without providing ANY evidence (even corralative evidence) is a bit of a jump.

The two statistics he highlights are as follows:

Abortions have reached record levels, and nearly a third of women who have an abortion have had one or more before.

Department of Health statistics reveal that abortions in England and Wales rose by more than 700 in 2005, from 185,713 in 2004 to 186,416
Some 31 per cent of women had one or more previous abortions, a figure that rises to 43 per cent among black British women.

Now, me being the analytical mind I am, the first thing I did when i saw this was subtract and divide, and guess what kids, 0.4%, that is the increase we are talking about here. UPDATE! It looks like the population of the UK actually increased by .67% from Mid 2004- Mid 2005. So the growth of the population (which was largely from immigration) could account for the current increase. And also, the average population increase since 2001 has been .4%. So the number of abortions is almost flat when compared to the population increases.

And you can go on whatever pro life rant you want, but that doesn't change the following statistics:

-the total number of abortions was 186,400, compared with 185,700 in 2004, a rise of 0.4%

-the total number of abortions was 185,400, compared with 181,600 in 2003, a rise of 2.1%

-the total number of abortions was 181,600, compared with 175,900 in 2002, a rise of 3.2%

Which % increase do you prefer? So instead of celebarating that the RATE of increase is slowing, we're going to be shocked that it continues to increase at all. Looked at this way, it looks like some progress is being made. And maybe that IS the result of Sex-Education. But I still have no idea where that bit came from.

UPDATE 7/06- I WAS just going to let this post sink into the deep black hole as so many of my posts are wont to do. But now I'm pissed. (surprise) My comment on Tim's post was edited as follows:

That's a .4% increase. Not even half a percentage point. And based on the statistics I've been able to locate this is the smallest increase of the last three years.

This is a clearly biased view of these statistics.

Tim adds: Yup, I am biased. You OK with that?

Well NO Tim, actually I'm NOT okay with that. But I'm sorry it is just asking too much for you to look at evidence for something other than confirmation of your opinions. It took me 10 seconds too google all that UK health information. God forbid you (Or even better, the person from the Telegraph who wrote the uberbiased article) actually do a little research.


Averroes said...

Isn't it fun. Great analysis.

I would only advise that the "but the rate is slowing" argument never takes with someone on the other side of an argument.

Like, say, "the deficit continues to grow, but the rate of that growth is slowing." Or, "the number of handgun deaths continues to increase every year, but the rate of increase has slowed.

What we want is a decrease in the deficit, or a decrease in handgun deaths.

Maybe using a second derivative function would be more compelling. (Just kidding.)

Tim Worstall said...

OK, if you want to check statistics, try this.

What was the abortion rate in, say, 1970? (that’s three years after legalisation in the UK).

Do it per cpaita, per fertile woman, however you wish.

Take today’s rate.

In those 36 years has sex education increased or decreased? (That’s not a difficult one to answer actually).

Fine, so what we would appear to be able to show here is a correlation between increased sex education and increased abortion rates.

( I’m convinced that that is indeed what the numbers will show but I’m not a statistician so I’ll leave that to you.)

Now, as we all know, correlation is not the same as causation. But it does indeed seem a little odd to note that the correlation is for more of both and then insist that the causation is that one produces less of the other.