Monday, January 24, 2005


Lies, damn lies, and (accusing others of lying about) statistics

Malkin makes a semi-puzzling statement about Hillary Clinton...
In her brazen quest to move rightward, N.Y. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton attacked President Bush's record on abortion, claiming at a Washington, D.C., march today that:

In the (first) three years since President Bush took office, eight states have seen an increase in abortion rates and four saw a decrease.
"Quest to move rightward?" The only way I can figure that this is a "rightward" move is if one accepts the ridiculous idea that your average pro-choicer sees a drop in abortions as a bad thing. Considering that Sen. Clinton's husband just about coined the phrase "safe, legal, and rare", calling Clinton's statement - and the sentiment it represents - "brazen" is disingenous at best.

Malkin goes on, though, to quote at length in its attempt to debunk the Stassen op-ed from which Clinton probably took her numbers. Glen Stassen, Lewis B. Smedes Professor of Christian Ethics at Fuller Theological Seminary and author of Kingdom Ethics: Following Jesus in Contemporary Context, supposedly (according to Lifenews) published the op-ed "[i]n a last-minute effort to call into question President Bush's pro-life credentials." He is also an avowed pro-lifer. In his own words:
My wife caught rubella in the eighth week of her pregnancy. We decided not to terminate, to love and raise our baby. David is legally blind and severely handicapped; he also is a blessing to us and to the world.
Lifenews makes this claim:
Stassen's article first claims that abortions were on the decline (down 17.4%) during the 1990s. The assumption he makes is that the economic policies of Bill Clinton caused the decrease.
A quick search of Stassen's article finds that he never once mentions Clinton's name. He does say: "When President George W. Bush took office, the nation's abortion rates were at a 24-year low, after a 17.4% decline during the 1990s. This was an average decrease of 1.7% per year, mostly during the latter part of the decade." That's a poorly written sentence, in my opinion, but it's not the pro-Clinton tirade it's made out to be.

Additionally, Lifenews says
"Stassen never demonstrates that his 16 states are representative of the 50 states,"
which is true - in the op-ed article. But a click on the statistics demonstrates just that:
A Z-test of statistical significance of the sixteen states for the one year that I reported, representing about thirty million women of child-bearing age, suggests greater than 99.9999% confidence that they represent the fifty states.
Back to Hillary. Lifenews also quotes Hillary:
Meanwhile, Clinton also said that during her husband's administration, "we saw the rate of abortion consistently fall."

"The abortion rate fell by one-quarter between 1990 and 1995, the steepest decline since Roe was decided in 1973," Clinton told a conference of the Family Planning Advocates of New York. "The rate fell another 11 percent between 1994 and 2000."

Those numbers also come from the flawed Stassen study.
Dr. Stassen's work keeps changing from a study to an article and back again. Moreover, I can't find these particular statistics in the article, nor any evidence from Lifenews to support the claim that these numbers are false.

There are some issues with the Stassen article, but like any scholar, Stassen seems to have addressed them and in some cases corrected mistakes. And Clinton's claims do oversimplify things a bit. But to call her remarks "rightward", and the article they come from "a last-minute effort" to hurt Bush, amount to a one-two punch of intellectual dishonesty. Stassen does have an opinion about Bush's policies, however - and he's agreed with by some sort of cabal of left-wing babykillers:
The U.S. Catholic bishops warned of this likely outcome if support for families with children was cut back. My wife and I know - as does my son David - that doctors, nurses, hospitals, medical insurance, special schooling, and parental employment are crucial for a special child. David attended the Kentucky School for the Blind, as well as several schools for children with cerebral palsy and other disabilities. He was mainstreamed in public schools as well. We have two other sons, and five grandchildren, and we know that every mother, every father, and every child needs public and family support.
What does this tell us? Economic policy and abortion are not separate issues; they form one moral imperative. Rhetoric is hollow, mere tinkling brass, without healthcare, health insurance, jobs, childcare, and a living wage. Pro-life in deed, not merely in word, means we need a president who will do something about jobs and health insurance and support for prospective mothers.
Update: Made a few edits for clarity and typoes.