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In Arizona, Deception by the Numbers

2/25/2004 - 5:05 AM PST

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by J. Andrew Murray

On February 23, the Associated Press (AP) reported that an Arizona law requiring minors to obtain their parents’ or a judge’s consent to have an abortion “has apparently not changed the number of minors having the procedure.” The news organization further quotes Mr. Christopher Mrelo of the Arizona Department of Health Services as saying “There has been no dramatic change” in the number of Arizona minors having abortions. The AP article’s text and tone implies that that the law is ineffective, as will be an Arizona bill requiring a 24-hour waiting period for any woman seeking an abortion that “Anti-abortion lawmakers” have recently passed through the Arizona Senate.

What makes this report appalling is not merely the subtle, pro-abortion bias in its language and structure. It is the brazen misrepresentation of the statistics by the AP and the quoted Arizona Health officials. What I’d like to do here is walk through the math.

Not including December, the State of Arizona recorded 617 abortions performed on girls 17 and younger in 2003. Mr. Mrelo claimed that this number is not “strikingly different” from numbers in recent years. In 2002, 705 abortions were performed on minors. 540 were performed in 2001. This means that in 2003, 88 fewer abortions occurred among Arizona minors. As Christians, we must give thanks that 88 human lives were saved in 2003.

But let’s go more in depth. The 2003 vs. 2002 numerical difference represents an approximately 12.5 percent decrease in abortions among Arizona minors. Imagine for a moment officials in any city, county, or district in the United States claiming that a 12.5 percent decrease in murder, rape, or other crime of violence was not “strikingly different.” My guess is that you can’t imagine it – because such numbers would make the local evening news, with mayors, governors, and police chiefs mugging for election-year photo ops.

Including the 2001 statistics in the analysis yields even more incredible results. While some would argue that the following rationale is hypothetical, I include the argument because abortion “advocates” and others in the culture of death routinely use such extrapolations. In 2001, 540 Arizona teens received abortions. The 2002 number therefore represents a 31 percent increase in teen abortion. Holding the 2001- 2002 rate of increase more or less steady, we can see that without this law 924 Arizona teens would have received abortions in 2003. While the counted number of lives saved was 88, this law has actually saved the lives of as many 307 unborn children. This law took effect in March 2003. Imagine the results if it had been implemented in January.

I do not mean to imply that Mr. Mrelo or anyone at the Arizona Department of Health Services intentionally misrepresented the facts. Quite the contrary – what probably occurred was that these public health professionals inserted the numbers into some textbook social science formula, and determined the results were not “statistically significant” given the total Arizona population. What I state directly, without resorting to implication, is that the AP took this information and presented in a completely misleading manner. At best, they have engaged in poor fact-checking and journalistic practice. At worst, they have intentionally misrepresented the facts to present the media’s biased version of the truth: that abortion is a public good, and anyone who claims otherwise is ignorant and misinformed. My guess is that the latter is the case, unfortunately.

A sad and well-worn lesson here is that we must always question the “truth” of statements made by the media. Reading a news article, most people simply look over the numbers and trust the veracity of the reporter’s conclusion. In an age of outrageous media bias, we have an obligation to guard against and draw attention to misleading and dishonest reporting.

But there is another lesson. As Christians we are called to be the light of the world. While those educated in bureaucracy, public policy, and the manipulation of public opinion may reduce the value of human life to orders of significance in a statistical equation, we must never fail to illuminate the point that even one human life is precious, important, and sacred. We must clarify for our leaders that they must not reduce humanity to a series of data points in an annual report. We must make clear the sacredness of each human life, regardless of its stage of development or ability.

Opponents may point out several weaknesses in my arguments. First, the abortion statistics are not presented within the context of total teen pregnancies. Second, I have provided abortion data from only two years prior to the law’s enactment. This begs the question – what is the “normal” annual variation in teen abortion levels? Third, I have not correlated my data to local school systems’ mode of sex education (i.e., abstinence-only or “morally neutral”). Most importantly, I have not considered role of readily available so-called emergency contraceptives, such as RU486, Levonorgestrel (Plan B and Preven), and other abortifacients in reducing the reported number of surgical abortions by increasing the number of chemically induced abortions among Arizona teens.

I have not addressed any of these points, all of which bear further investigation. But neither did the Associated Press. My purpose is to point out bias, not conduct an in-depth analysis of the data. What disturbs me is that is the duty of the press to ask exactly these types of questions, not simply report a minimum of information to reinforce a pro-abortion worldview. What makes me rejoice is that in the most simple of analyses, eighty-eight fewer Arizona babies were killed in the first home of humanity.

Eighty-eight fewer unborn children killed in Arizona. Eighty-eight more lives to be lived. Eighty-eight more souls survive to praise the Name of God. How can this not be “striking?”

Yours in Christ

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Keywords

abortion; teen; parental notification; Arizona

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