As we all know, I don’t really get math that well. I have trouble figuring out how to put things together in a proper story problem. And so I don’t know if I have another legitimate gripe with the Tennessee Right to Life folks or not.
Now, on their website, they say “For every two babies born, another baby dies in an abortion.”
The CDC says “The abortion ratio, defined as the number of abortions per 1,000 live births, was 246 in 2002, the same as reported for 2001.”
And since you can’t abort a partial pregnancy, I was willing to concede to the Tennessee Right to Life website their point.
But it’s been nagging at me. Is the CDC saying that for every two babies born, another “baby” died in an abortion?
Follow me here while I try to work this out. There are 1,000 lives births. Those babies are born. There are 246 abortions. Those “babies” were not born.
I think the Tennessee Right to Life is making an honest mistake here in interpreting the CDC’s data based on their “a fetus is a baby” rhetoric. They think that the CDC is counting the 1,000 babies and the 246 “babies” as the same thing.
Like, if I said, “One in twelve eggs will break before it leaves the store” you would know that there are probably eleven whole eggs in your dozen. Tennessee Right to Life is reading the CDC data as saying 246 in 1,000 babies will not be born because the pregnancies were terminated.
But I think what the CDC is saying is the equivalent of saying “For every twelve whole eggs that leave the store, one will be broken”–which means that all the eggs that leave the store are whole. So, it’s not one in eleven eggs that are broken, it’s one in thirteen.
Do you see what I’m getting at? If all fertilized eggs implanted and no pregnancies ever miscarried, Tennessee Right to Life’s one in three number would still be wrong, because it’s not 246/1,ooo, it’s 246/1,246, which is closer to one in five than one in three.
But Tennessee Right to Life is making a larger mistake, which is to assume that those 1,246 “babies” are all the pregnancies there were. See what I’m getting at? The CDC’s number tells us nothing about how many pregnancies there were, and without that number, we don’t get a true idea of how many pregnancies end by abortion.
You can’t look at the number of live births and the number of abortions and extrapolate from that how many pregnancies ended because of abortions, because women miscarry. The March of Dimes reports that about 50% of pregnancies end in miscarriage, most happening before a woman even knows she’s pregnant. That’d bring the number of “babies” lost in abortion to 1 in 10 pregnancies, I think, not 1 in 3.
But, the March of Dimes defines a miscarriage as “A miscarriage is the loss of a baby before the 20th week of pregnancy.” So our one in ten ratio doesn’t include still births. I couldn’t find the most recent numbers from the CDC, but in 1998, the fetal mortality rate was 6.7 per thousand live births in the U. S.
Okay, so I still think we’re a lot closer to one in ten pregnancies ended by abortion, not one in three, which the Tennessee Right to Lifers seem to be promoting.
Anti-abortion people probably think that one in ten is far too many. Fair enough. But the point is that one can be anti-abortion and still be concerned about the accuracy of a lobbying group that wants to be taken seriously as having great political power.
Senator Henry can be anti-abortion and still want to distance himself from a group that appears to be gravely inaccurate in its reporting and biased in its presentation.
*Even though, technically, pregnancy begins when the fertilized egg is implanted in a woman’s uterus.