June 4, 2008 - May 28, 2008
Monday, July 23, 2007
. I didn't get at all involved in the controversy over
JetBlue's decision to fund the Kos Convention. I did observe that Roger
Simon of Pajamas Media seemed to be taking a mild view of it -- and that a
few conservative bloggers took him to task for it. I must say, though,
that I did a double take when I read this portion of his most
of his position. After repeating his point that
agitated rhetoric makes money by attracting readers and viewers to niche media markets,
This economic motive is augmented by
ideological loathing of the type practiced broadly by the likes of Kos
and OíReilly and more subtly Ė but perhaps more lethally Ė by
pseudo-objective outlets like The New York Times. Everyone is playing
to his or her audience. But the loser is that audience. It is we the
With this polarized media atmosphere, it is small wonder that the
President and the Congress have the pathetic poll numbers they do. Our
leaders present themselves to us through that media and, in a very real
sense, are part of it. They are one and the same. The Congress is a
media personality. Much of what they do is media defined. It is one big
show, much like sports. And we citizens have been reduced to fans,
chanting ďOur team is red hot, your teamís worth diddley-squat,Ē just
as we did in junior high. But the games and the issues are real.
Meanwhile, we are left with a polity that is virtually dysfunctional,
lost in their own electoral ambitions and outmoded ideological
preachments and not talking to each other. We have a Left with no response to a
misogynistic/homophobic religious fascist enemy that abhors separation
of church and state and a Right willing to use their religious
values to shut down the US Congress over the fate of one woman when
they could not possibly have any true medical knowledge of her
Talk about irony. [emphasis mine]
Yeah, let's talk about irony. I confess my first reading of the
boldfaced portion of his post was as a reference to the right wing in
this country as it is characterized by the left. And actually that is
the left's response to
Islamofascism -- to ignore it altogether while imputing precisely its
evils to their domestic political opposition. Irony in spades. As one commenter
suggested, the Terry Schiavo tempest pales in comparison to the
ideological dislocation represented by the leftist media's hateful
transference of such opprobrium from the enemy to fellow citizens.
That's why those on the right can't put sufficient stock in Simon's
well meaning platitudes to reach across the aisle and "just get along"
with the Democrats. We know they want to inflict as much damage on us
as they possibly can, legislatively, culturally, and personally.
They're as open about that as the Islamofascists are. Appeasement is a
sucker's game in both conflicts.
Of course, anyone can see what's underway here. Simon and his PJM
venture are getting a taste of the perks of media credibility. He may
even have reached the point of getting his telephone calls returned by
some of the more influential media stars. It can't hurt a burgeoning
reputation for even-handedness to position one's self between O'Reilly
and the DailyKos. I wish him luck with that.
But I'd also like to draw attention to a few other things that are
broadly if not specifically relevant to the issue on which he's chosen
to adopt such a superior tone.
Simon's JetBlue Argument
I repeat that I don't care what JetBlue does. To me it just seemed like
one more strikingly bad business decision, which is something that
company is starting to get a reputation for after a promising guerilla
start. I never much cared about Ben and Jerry's obnoxious poilitcs
either. I confined myself to never buying their products. I'll never
fly JetBlue, though less for their Kos affiliation than for their
tendency to strand airline passengers willy nilly all over the country.
Still, the argument that those who are genuinely indignant about
legitimizing leftist radicals in this fashion should shut up and be
polite about it is hauntingly similar to the leftist claim that
fighting Islamofascists just makes them mad and†is therefore
counterproductive. Comity is not on the liberal agenda. Yelling about
their newest gambit -- a la O'Reilly -- is actually the mildest of
responses available and the quickest way for a stupid business to learn
the market's first and cruelest commandment: Thou shalt not piss off
thy potential customers.
Aside from that, it's equally silly to pretend that large corporations
are going to make showy investments in right-leaning organizations. In
all probability, a higher percentage of media conglomerate executives
are conservative than are their journalist employees in network news
organizations. Has this resulted in any moderation of the leftist bias
of CBS, ABC, or NBC? No. And it won't. Elite media lords also believe
their most discriminating customers are liberals. Who's going to stick
his head into the boardroom to tell them different?
Cozying up to the Left
I'm sick of people decrying partisanship as if that were the real
problem. It isn't. The problem lies in the positions the partisans are
taking. On the left, we are not seeing positions that any reasonable
believer in the American experiment can afford to compromise with. The
majority party in the congress is doing everything in its power to
secure the military defeat of a U.S. army in the field, in a strategic
theater of operations. At the same time the majority party in the U.S.
Senate has recently voted (with only one dissent) not
to protect freedom of
political speech in the one
they don't control AND they are using Senate procedural
tricks to prevent
of a law that would preserve the freedom of American
citizens to speak with impunity to authorities when they suspect their
lives might be in danger from terrorism. And dare I mention that the
only product of their tenure in the majority thus far has been an
endless succession of small-minded investigations intended to uncover
their hidden Holy Grail -- an excuse, any excuse, for impeachment
of the President of the United States.
Yeah, conservatives overreacted to Terry
. That's got to be
right up there with an institutionalized conspiracy to commit treason
and subversion of the government. Maybe if Pajama's Media has enough
productive debates and dialogues with the left, we'll find some common
ground in the middle. Conservatives will agree that families can pull
the plug on inconvenient relatives, and Democrats will agree to go a
little slower in betraying the national security of the U.S. and
removing the speech and religious rights of the home-grown
"misogynistic/homophobic religious fascist enemy that abhors separation
of church and state." Then, maybe we can all work together to build the
non-smoking, non-meat-eating Luddite utopia we should all be striving
for, where every terrorist has a dream-team legal defense like O.J.,
where nobody but some of the smarter folk in media and government make
any more money than a physician in Canada, and where nobody drives from
place to place in a car bigger than a golf cart or more
impact-resistant than a Miller Lite can.
To those on the inside of the new media this may all appear to be a game
consisting of performers,"fans," and oh yeah, some real issues. To those of us watching from
outside, it's not a game or a pristine issue debate, but a war for the preservation of American
Count me out. Where should I mail my pajamas to make the resignation
Sorry, but I had to add more after reading this exchange. Mostly,
Simon's commenters weren't happy with his post for reasons similar to
my own. Then came David:
"Our leaders present themselves to us through that media and, in a very
real sense, are part of it. They are one and the same."
That might be the most insightful comment I've read about the current
political environment in years... keep going down that road.
Jul 23, 2007 08:43 AM
Who got an immediate response:
Roger L. Simon :
Thanks, David. You made my day.
As for those who worry that I like the Daily Kos, you should reread the
above post. I think it's paleo-idealogical drivel.
Jul 23, 2007 09:01 AM
Perhaps needless to say, he ignored ALL the critical comments.
Problem is, the point David singled out for praise is the least
accurate statement in Simon's post. When it comes to the Bush
administration in particular, our leaders are not "one and the same"
with the media. (One could make a slightly different case with regard
to the Clinton administration and the upcoming Hillary administration,
but that's not where we are at the moment.) The mainstream media are
far closer to Daily Kos than they are to the schmucks who have managed
communications for the Bush White House. And sadly, even the Republican
leadership in Congress is closer to the Daily Kos than they are to the
Bush White House -- that is, they invest all their beliefs about voters
in popular memes that are derived from dishonestly conducted polls and
the sense of immune privilege they experience from being surrounded by
sycophant staffers and ravenous lobbyists.
The tragedy of the past few years is that the only meaningful
contingent which has not grasped Simon's cynical point is the Texas
lunkheads in the Bush administration. We posted about them all the way
back in November
George W. Bush doesn't like to fire
people. It's his greatest weakness. If he wants to prevail in his most
important policies, however, it's time he overcame that weakness.
Pictured above are the first three heads that must fall: Dan Bartlett,
Strategic Communications Planning; Scott McClellan, White House Press
Secretary; and Nicolle Devenish, White House Communications Director...
By any possible standard of competence in communications, these people
are miserably and irredeemably inept. If they were merely obedient
soldiers executing the instructions of the big boss, they should have
resigned en masse long ere this in protest at being deprived of the
opportunity to exercise their good judgment. If they actually concocted
the communication plans that responded to the crises listed above, as
seems more likely in the court of the Great Delegator, they should be
drummed out of the profession -- hollow square, buttons ripped off,
swords broken -- the works.
In fact, this is an area where I do have relevant professional
expertise. For 10 years I was a consultant on internal and external
communications to Fortune 100
companies, as well as a speechwriter for the highest ranking corporate
executives. From first to last, the Bush White House has made nothing
but mistakes in its communication strategies with the media, the
Congress, and the people. The mainstream media and the Democratic
Party, however, have succeeded by default in the tarring and feathering
of the President to a degree I almost can't imagine.
Roger L. Simon is flat wrong in implying that the big media game he
describes includes the President and his staff. They are playing in a
different arena, called real life. Make no mistake. I hold George W.
Bush centrally responsible for not detecting the problem and remedying
it. The malefactors also include Karl Rove, who is also not competent
by any standard I know.
But for Simon to contend that the most important wielder of power in
our nation is also a corrupt and cynical packager of messages designed
to keep ordinary Americans out of the loop is absurd. This is where his
professional credentials come
up short. He's a novelist and scriptwriter, not a communications
The truth is, it's entirely appropriate for politicians to use
state-of-the-art communications technologies and techniques to press
their case on important issues. The Bush administration hasn't done it,
probably because they thought sincerity and integrity of purpose would
be sufficient. They were wrong. But it's despicable for Simon to indict
them for a crime they've never shown the talent to commit.
What I'm feeling about now is disgust. Roger L. Simon is in the process
of becoming a star of the new media. Where is his declaration of the
principles he will adhere to as he increasingly becomes a membr of the
insider club he simultaneously deplores and seeks to placate?
Come on in, Newt.
ALWAYS RIGHT, PART XIX
The water's fine...
. He's not sexy. He's not good looking. He's
not popular. He's not charismatic unless you like blazing intellect.
But he's the candidate the Republicans need if they're ever going to
return from the valley of the shadow.
Questions for Dean Barnett: We're at war. Don't you sometimes yearn for
a candidate who knows how to fight a war? Not smooth, not nuanced, Not
polished and posed. But poised for the bulging jugulars of those who
dare to defy him.
Here he is, warming up in the wings, twirling that damn ninja
around his oversized head:
Dismissing the GOP presidential field
as a "pathetic" bunch of "pygmies," Newt Gingrich hinted Monday he
might step in to beat Democrats Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama.
"If, in mid-October, it's quite clear that one or more of the current
candidates is strong enough to be a serious alternative to a
Clinton-Obama ticket, you don't need me to run," the former House
Speaker said at a breakfast sponsored by the American Spectator. "If it
becomes patently obvious, as the morning paper points out, that the
Democrats have raised a hundred million more than the Republicans, and
at some point people decide we are going to get Hillary unless there's
a radical change, then there's space for a candidate," he added. "So
you'll know by mid-October one of those two futures is real."
Asked by the Examiner if he was prepared to commit to a run, Gingrich
said, "I'm perfectly happy to do what I do," he said. "Whether that
leads to the presidency is the country's problem, not mine."
Gingrich mocked Republican presidential candidates for subjecting
themselves to a May debate hosted by Chris Matthews of MSNBC's
"You're watching an utterly irrelevant, shallow television celebrity
dominate everybody who claimed they want to lead the most powerful
nation in the world," he said.
Gingrich ridiculed "the idea of 10 or 11 people standing passively at
microphones," and said he refused to "shrink to the level of 40-second
answers, standing like a trained seal, waiting for someone to throw me
He added: "These are not debates, these are auditions. By definition,
the psychology of an audition reduces the person auditioning and raises
the status, for example, of Chris Matthews."
Pressed by The Examiner about whether his political baggage renders him
unelectable, Gingrich compared himself to a famous French statesman.
"This is like going to De Gaulle when he was at
Colombey-les-Deux-Eglises during the Fourth Republic and saying, 'Don't
you want to rush in and join the pygmies?'" he said.
"I have no interest in the current political process. I have no
interest in trying to figure out how I can go out and raise money under
John McCain's insane censorship rules so I can show up to do seven
minutes and twenty seconds at some debate." Still, he said he might
enter the race before the deadlines to "start filing petitions.
Former house speaker and potential GOP
presidential candidate Newt Gingrich ripped conservatives and liberals
alike Monday at a breakfast sponsored by the American Spectator.
Here's how Newt unloaded on half a dozen newsmakers:
Fred Thompson, potential presidential candidate "I'm excited to see
whether Fred turns out to be as decisive a front-runner as John
McCain...The guy who wasn't even in the race is now the exciting new
name, having decided that he would leave television for the purpose of
Sen. John McCain, presidential candidate "The guy who had spent the
most on consultants is on the verge, I think, of dropping out of the
race, right after he collects his FEC [Federal Elections Commission]
Robert Novak, conservative columnist and author "Sometimes he's right
and sometimes he's just venomous....He was once a good reporter, he's
now just a personality."
Al Gore, maker of documentary "An Inconvenient Truth" "[Not] in touch
with reality. ... The advertisement for his movie was the most
viciously anti-animal advertising that I've seen in a long time. They
had these little penguins walking on sand. It was terrible."
Michael Moore, maker of documentary "Sicko" "I find Michael Moore so
despicable I can't imagine looking at a movie by him. It would be like
looking at a movie by Goebbels."
Come on, Dean. Tell me you wouldn't love this campaign. And then tell
me how we could have had Reagan if we hadn't had Goldwater first. We
have a dead party. We need more than a glossy 8 by 10 to resurrect it.
We need to rechart the whole terrain with guts and brains. I'll await
your careful and pragmatic rebuttal.
Ah, the internets. What fun we have. Dean Barnett emailed to say, "I'm
bored with the race at this moment. Newt doesn't quicken my pulse."
Dean is bored. He spends months building up the prospects of the most
soporific presidential candidate since George Romney, and now he's bored
Yesterday, PJM CEO Roger L. Simon. And the Blogfather, Glenn Reynolds
(More about that at a later date.) Today, rising substitute talk show
host Dean Barnett.
You see, it's just not interesting when the only things on the line are
the fate of western civilization, capitalism, and Christianity. A book
deal would be good. Or a contract for your own talk show. That would
quicken the pulse. It might even make up for eight years of Hillary. In fact, we might be looking at eight GREAT years of Hillary.
Something to talk about. On the show. You know.
Friday, July 20, 2007
She's a writer too.
. This is going to be big
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the
California Democrat who this year became the first woman to hold the
top spot in the House of Representatives, is writing a memoir, to be
released in the summer of 2008 by the Doubleday Broadway Publishing
"From my parents' home in Baltimore to representing San Francisco in
the Congress, my life has been devoted to family and public service. I
look forward to telling my story for my grandchildren and in
recognition of the contributions of all women across America," Pelosi
said in a statement issued Thursday by Doubleday, a division of Random
InstaPunk spies will be fanning out across the publishing world to
obtain portions of the manuscript as it is written. Check in here on a
regular basis because we are going to be THE source for pre-publication
I've been ticked off about one comment for months. I was writing about
Laila Ali and mentioned in passing that Muhammed Ali was the greatest
athlete in history. Here's what a commenter said:
The greatest athlete history has ever
seen (or some such proclomation) is Mohammed Ali? The Boxer? Wow,
Grandiose? Uh, no. It isn't. I apologize to everyone who knows what an idiot this
guy is. To everyone else I say screw you. Muhammed (not Mohammed) Ali was
the most famous man in the world in his day. He reigned at the pinnacle
of his sport for close to 20 years. And his sport was one which can
kill or maim you.† He was the greatest prizefighter who ever
lived, and therefore the greatest athlete.
I'm not linking to all the fights which proved he was the most talented,
the most resourceful and the bravest his sport ever produced. You can
find those for yourselves. If you know the names Liston, Williams,
Terrell, Folley, Frazier, and Foreman. I'm linking to the thing that is
unique to boxing -- the ironic tragedy that talent can cripple you. In
the early days, they said Ali was all talent and couldn't take a punch.
In the late days -- 17 to 20 years in -- they said his ability to take
a punch was TOO great. They were right about that. Ali's Parkinson's
Disease has everything to do with fights like this at the end of his
career, when he retained his title by surviving repeated knockout blows that didn't knock him down from sluggers like Earnie Shavers and Ron Lyle, who
would have levelled Joe Louis or Mike Tyson.
Ali was the Greatest by too much. Clips like the one I'm showing here
cause me physical pain. Don't ever make the mistake of claiming that
some other athlete -- Michael Jordan, Barry Bonds, etc -- can hold a
candle to Muhammed Ali. They can't.
Thursday, July 19, 2007
The New Math of Abortion
. Sometimes you stumble on some blog entry by chance, read
on, and then belatedly it occurs to you that something you read back
there doesn't sound quite right.
That happened to me yesterday at Classical Values, where Simon
Eric at Classical Values is discussing
Clayton Cramers's piece on the prevalence of abortion before Roe. His
conclusion about abortion is that it may actually be happening at a
lower rate since Roe.
A few minutes later, the buzzer went off: "a lower rate since Roe"? I
didn't think so. So I followed the link to Eric's
, where he began
with a similar statement (all the boldface in the excerpts below was
added by me):
notes that there were plenty of abortions before Roe v. Wade
-- and that there may have been more than there are now.
....even before Roe v. Wade (1973),
Oregon theoretically made abortion unlawful except to save the life or
health of the mother--and yet still had 199 abortions per 1000 live
births in 1970. Does anyone really believe that 1/6th of all
pregnancies in Oregon required an abortion for the life or health of
the mother? You can pass laws, but if a large fraction of the
population strongly disagrees, that law will be disobeyed unless you
have a very powerful police presence trying to enforce it. Think back
to the national 55 mph speed limit, or most restrictive gun control
I'm reminded of the situation in Pennsylvania, which had similar laws
to Oregon's, as did most states
I don't know what the Pennsylvania statistics from the period are, but
I do know that as a practical matter it was very easy to obtain an
abortion -- provided the individual woman (or her family) had the money
to pay for it.
Eric's post goes on to underscore a point that's also
relevant to the question of what statistics people are using and how
they're using them:
Cramer also links his earlier post on
the same topic, in which he concluded that the pre-Roe statistics were
"disturbing to the conventional wisdom":
If you believe that Roe v. Wade started
a deluge of murdering babies, then why
was the abortion rate so high in states that pro-lifers would consider
civilized? Does anyone seriously believe that 16% of Oregon
pregnancies required an abortion for the life or health of the mother?
It should be obvious that a lot of those were elective abortions,
disguised as being for "the life or health of the mother."
If you believe that before Roe, America was a barbarous place where
women had to get backstreet abortions (except for the five
"enlightened" states of Alaska, California, Hawaii, New York, and
Washington), then you need to explain why
the abortion rates in some of the states with severe abortion
restrictions were higher than the abortion rates in the states that
allowed abortion on demand.
I find this data fascinating, and disturbing to the conventional wisdom.
I don't think either side in the abortion debate especially wants any
of this publicized, and I think it's worth examining why.
The pro-abortion people like to paint the pre-Roe world as a
patriarchal hell in which oppressed women were either forced to bear
unwanted children or else resort to "coat hanger abortions." The
anti-abortion people paint the pre-Roe world as governed by the type of
values often portrayed in 1930s movies (aka "traditional values" -- but
never mind the less traditional 1920s), in which those few women who
might get pregnant out of wedlock would never have had abortions
because a Godly America would not allow it.
The truth is unpalatable to both of these "conventional wisdoms."
But what is the truth? Is it at all decipherable? I looked up the data
Clayton Cramer was citing. It consists of a table on page 31 of this paper
(available as a PDF file):
The states highlighted in yellow are the
ones that had abortion on demand prior to Roe v. Wade. The status of
D.C. is unclear because the table in the PDF file employed boldface to
indicate states with abortion-on-demand, and the D.C. typography was
Now. I don't want to
say that Clayton Cramer has cherry-picked his data, but he has
cherry-picked his data. The 199 per 1000 figure he cites for Oregon in
1970 is hardly the most interesting or instructive statistic, let alone
trend, on the table. It probably is
the highest abortion rate in a
state without a significantly urban population that year, and in that
respect it is actually atypical. The rates for Georgia, New Mexico,
Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia are strikingly low. The figures
for New York, D.C., and Hawaii are strikingly high. And what's the
meaning of the crack about "civilized"? The people who might
automatically assume that New York and DC are more civilized than
Georgia and the Carolinas are probably not
pro-lifers. In fact, even this
far back in time, the distribution of abortion rates among these states
seems to track with the current red state-blue state breakdown, which
makes it pretty easy to understand the high Oregon number.
Worse than all this is the failure of the table as a whole to provide
any support for Cramer's main point -- the one uncritically repeated by
Simon and Eric -- that the data somehow suggest abortion rates might be
lower after Roe v. Wade than before. The year-to-year trends on the
table are unmistakeable. For the time span shown, the abortion rate increases every year in
every single state
that has legalized abortion in some measure.
Furthermore, we see dramatic increases in the states that passed an
abortion-on-demand law after1969, with the exception of Hawaii. For
example, Oregon's neighboring state of Washington leaped from a rate of
83 per thousand in 1970 to 265 per thousand the following year, when
abortion-on-demand became legal.
Indeed, the most interesting aspect of the data is the huge
differentials between the states, which directly undermines Cramer's
argument that abortion is somehow analogous to the 55 mph speed limit
as a law held in universal contempt and therefore continuously,
ubiquitously broken. One doesn't have to be biased pro- or
anti-abortion to interpret these differentials as arising from multiple
factors that could vary widely from state to state or region to region.
There's a general cultural factor -- the disposition of the population
to seek abortion as a personally acceptable alternative to an unwanted
pregancy. There's a medical ethical factor -- the disposition of
physicians to find abortion an acceptable/unacceptable service to
provide their patients and therefore to interpret the existing law
strictly or loosely. There's a governmental factor -- whether the state
administration regards a restrictive abortion law as meaning what it
says or as a wink-wink license for de facto abortion-on-demand.
Finally, there's a timing factor -- it may take longer in some states
than others for women to realize that a restrictive abortion law is (or
isn't) code for abortion-on-demand.
Depending on your viewpoint, for example, New York is a perfect storm
of all these factors that drives abortion to insane levels, or Georgia
is a perfect storm of the same factors preventing real access to
abortion despite its technical legality.
So. Was Clayton Cramer right? Almsot certainly not. Additional searches
turned up state-by-state abortions-per-thousand-live-births data for
the year 2003
On the upside, this is far enough into the post-Roe era that any early
volatility should be smoothed out. On the downside, the data are
obviously from a different source and may reflect a different
collection and verification approach. Still, the figures are better
than no figures.†
*Indicates a state that added abortion-on-demand after 1969.
Everyone is free to draw his own inferences. My own take is that a
couple of patterns exist which tend to confirm my interpretation of the
1969-1972 differentials. The states that started out with high abortion
rates in the immediate aftermath of limited legalization seem to have
plateaued: Oregon, Colorado, Maryland, New Mexico. This suggests that
in these states limited legality probably was
code for abortion-on-demand to
a significant degree. Yet the two locales that suffered the biggest
explosion of abortions in the wake of legalization -- New York and D.C.
-- show very significant declines from their 1972 highs. Does this
mean, as Cramer suggests, that Roe has in fact reduced the incidence of
abortion? You're free to think so, I suppose, but there's a more
obvious explanation. Note that New York's 2003 rate of 509 is very
close to the 534 of its pre-abortion-on-demand year of 1970. It's
therefore reasonable to ask how much of the stratospheric 1183 per
thousand recorded in 1972 represented an influx from neighboring states
(uh, say, New Jersey) where abortion was illegal or severely
restricted. D.C. has similarly dropped back from the outlandish 1801
abortions per thousand in 1972 (that's 64 percent of all pregnancies
didn't end in miscarriage or stillbirth!) to a level just under its
But the real kicker in these statistics is what happened in the states
that produced low or relatively low abortion rates in the 1969-1972
timeframe: Delaware, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and
Virginia. They're all way up under Roe. Note, too, that our simplified 2003 chart omits states that
added restrictive abortion laws after 1970. (Incidentally, these are not "most states" as Eric declares, but just over half.) If we compare those to the
2003 data, we have quite a few additional examples of† hugely
significant increases under Roe:
Of course, none of these figures speak to the question of how many
illegal abortions were occurring prior to Roe v. Wade, which is the
last refuge for Cramer's argument. Anecdotally, numbers quoted for this
category of abortion vary by orders of magnitude depending on whether
you are a pro-abortion or pro-life advocate.
Nevertheless, there are are also some data here that one can consult,
if not for a definitive answer at least for some strong indications.
Consider, for example, this analysis by AbortionFacts.com
It says, in part:
The head of one of the major
pro-abortion organizations in the U.S. said: "In 1972 there were
1,000,000 illegal abortions and 5,000 to 10,000 women died from them."
True? Or False?...
The United States, since the 1940s, has reported such deaths
separately, so we know the number of deaths from illegal abortions. Good! Now if we knew how many illegal abortions it took to
cause one death, we could easily calculate the total number of illegal
The following chart was used on the floor of the US Senate during the
tumultuous debate on abortion in 1981. It was compiled from official
U.S. statistics and was not challenged by the pro-abortion forces.
The reasons [for the drop after 1960] were new and better antibiotics,
better surgery and the establishment of intensive care units in
hospitals. This was in the face of a rising population. Between 1967
and 1970 sixteen states legalized abortion. In most it was limited,
only for rape, incest and severe fetal handicap (life of mother was
legal in all states). There were two big exceptions ó California in
1967, and New York in 1970 allowed abortion on demand...
In these two large states, legalization should have substituted "safe"
for unsafe abortions. It should have saved many womenís lives. Actually
there was no sharp drop in the number of women dying. Letís look
further. By the year before the U.S. Supreme Court decision which
allowed legal abortion on demand in all fifty states, the death rate
for illegal abortions had fallen to: 1972 = 39 (With 25 additional
deaths that year due to legal abortions.) Now abortion was legal in 50
states. Now back alley abortions should have been eliminated with their
alleged toll of maternal deaths.
In 1973 there should have been a really sharp drop in women dying. The
chart, however, shows that there was no such drop. The line didnít even
blip. The previous rate of decline actually slowed, to flatten out in
the late 70s and 80s. According to the U.S. vital statistics, as anyone
can see, legalization of abortion did not save almost any womenís
letís recap: Pro abortionists claim that in 1972, the year before the
Supreme Court legalized abortion, there were 1,000,000 illegal
abortions and 5,000 to 10,000 women died.
Actually only 39 women died ó less than one per state per year.
But they canít have it both ways.
- Either there were not many illegal abortions
- Illegal abortions were all extremely safe.
Since we assume that all illegal abortions were not extremely safe, it
seems obvious that THERE WERE NOT MANY ILLEGAL ABORTIONS.
The article also cites a 1981 study "by Dr. T. Hilgers from Creighton
University, who estimated the figure probably was at or somewhere near
100,000 abortions annually in the U.S. prior to legalization." Case
closed? Not quite. There's a huge qualifying factor in here, which the
Letís look at the late 1950s. Those
were the supposed bad old days. All abortions were illegal, and illegal
abortionists were alleged to be busy. In the July 1960 edition of The
American Journal of Public Health, there was an article by Dr. Mary
Calderone, founder of SIECUS and medical director of the Planned
Parenthood Federation of America. She stated:
"90% of illegal abortions are being done by physicians. Call them what
you will, abortionists or anything else, they are still physicians,
trained as such; . . . They must do a pretty good job if the death rate
is as low as it is . . . Abortion, whether therapeutic or illegal, is
in the main no longer dangerous, because it is being done well by
This opens to door to the possibility that a lot of abortions were
being performed illegally under faiirly safe conditions prior to any
legalization. Might this rescue Clayton Cramer's claim? Probably not.
Isn't it reasonable to assume that the first legal abortions were
performed by the very doctors who were previously willing to offer that
service under the table? Isn't it also reasonable to suppose that there
were such doctors in every state, albeit in different numbers? And
finally, isn't it reasonable to suppose that women seeking an abortion
would always prefer to obtain it legally rather than illegally?
If the answers to these questions are yes, then the figures we have for
1970 and 1971 are almost certainly an approximate upper boundary of the
most liberal estimate we might make of the number of illegal abortions
performed in the U.S. prior to Roe. In all likelihood, the actual
number of illegal abortions performed is lower than the '70-'71
figures, because illegality does deter some percentage of people --
patients and doctors -- from breaking the law. After all, there were
solid citizens who did observe the 55 mph speed limit, as even Clayton
Cramer might concede.
I am not saying that any of the analysis establishes the facts beyond dispute. Nor
am I making any statement whatsoever about what the data suggest with
regard to the disposition of the abortion issue itself. What I am
saying is that Clayton Cramer's
analysis is misleading and insupportable based on data that are
I'm politely suggesting that Eric and Simon of Classical Values be more
careful in the future about who and what they quote unskeptically.
On all the big social-cultural controversies of our time there are
large numbers of what we might call free-floating statistics; i.e.,
Kinsey's 10-percent gay guesstimate, NARAL's 10,000 women a year dead
of botched abortions before Roe, a million missing American children, Michael Moore's 47 million Americans without health insurance, etc. It's hard enough to discuss such matters honestly and
productively without the noise created by false but endlessly repeated
It behooves all of us who write about these topics to be as careful as
we can be about not contributing to the miasma of falsehoods the most
ardent on any side would have us believe.
Sorry to have been so long about it.
Clayton Cramer writes to say that he never claimed Roe v. Wade reduced
the number of abortions. He's said as much in an update
to his blog. A close reading of his entries suggests that he is
correct, although one can easily see how Eric and Simon of Classical
Values made the wrong inference they did. Cramer succeeding in leaving a wrong impression he now regrets. I apologize for transferring
a Classical Values misreading to Mr. Cramer. Nevertheless, I stand by
my most serious objections to Cramer's entry. He did
cherrypick data to make a
slight point that was distinctly at odds with the data he had available
and did not reproduce for his readers. I will also point out that his
update does not acknowledge his material misrepresentation in important
ways of the the data he cited† That his selective citation was
consistent with his libertarian views I note without malice. My
principal point still stands. This is
the process by which† fallacious statistics become embedded in the
public consciousness. We are all responsible to keep this from
happening. That's why I'm being forthright about my own error. I have
also asked Clayton Cramer, via email, to be forthright about his. If he
is, I'll trust him in future. If he isn't, I won't. Sometimes things
can be that simple, and that's as it should be.
For the record, I'll say that I emailed all parties involved about this post. Clayton Cramer responded promptly. I have yet to hear from anyone at Classical Values.UPDATE 2
He meets halfway at least. That's a lot in the egosphere of blogs.
Eric Scheie of Classical Values has just checked in. He also defends
Clayton Cramer and graciously directs -- in a blog update
-- readers here to correct any mistaken impressions. Meanwhile, Mr.
Cramer is claiming to have started hacking the Internet in 1972, when I
was just a glimmer in my father's eye. Uh, okay. Not true.† 1972,
when I was still watching the radicals begin their conquest of American
universities. Who, I wonder, earns true veteran status on this