The Abortion Controversy: Data

Sometimes it’s useful to go past the talking heads and look at actual numbers to see what people are really saying.

We have to look at 2017, because that seems to be the latest year for which a full set of data is available. Of course, that’s pre-pandemic, which makes it a good year to study.

Let’s take the case of Mississippi.

  • The total population in Mississippi in 2017 was 2,984,100.
  • The abortion rate in Mississippi in 2017 was 4.3 per 1,000 women of reproductive age. Now of course, not every woman of reproductive age was actually pregnant.
  • Infant deaths in Mississippi were 8.7 per 1,000 life births. That number includes stillbirths and miscarriages.
  • In absolute terms, that’s 37,357 live births and 2,594 abortions that year. There were another 325 deaths before and after birth. (1) (Note: different data sources provide somewhat different numbers. The differences are more pronounced at the national level due to non-reporting than at the state level. See discussion accompanying Pew Foundation chart below.)

Abortions exist, but the number is not huge. The actual impact is smaller, as we cannot assume that all of the aborted fetuses would have come to term. Some abortions are performed for medical reasons, either due to a health threat to the mother or lack of viability in the fetus. One very real risk of an expansion of the ban on abortions is an increase in the maternal death rate, which is already higher in the US than in other industrialized countries.

The trend in abortions since 1990 has been down.(6) There are far fewer today than there were 30 years ago. Part of the shift since that time is probably attributable to different lifestyles that people are adopting.

As usual, government (or in this case, court) action is coming well after the issue has diminished.

Now let’s consider the consequences of bringing an unwanted fetus to term.

  • We have 1.42 million children living with adopted parents today in the US.(2)
  • 2,323,000 children (2021) were living with a relative other than a parent; 592,000 were living with an adult with whom they are not genetically related.(5) Some of these arrangements don’t involve formal adoption.
  • 407,493 are currently in foster care.
  • Approximately 217,000 enter foster care annually.(3)

Children living with a grandparent are considered at risk for two reasons:

  • They often have been through multiple situations, often negative, before finally residing with the grandparent.
  • The grandparent’s physical and financial health can be a problem. Most people lack sufficient funds at retirement for their own care, much less raising kids. Then there’s the issue of whether physically they can give the child the attention and support the child needs.

The current system for supporting a child when the parents can’t care for them is really rather dysfunctional. If we are going to have more unwanted children born, we need to provide funding (e.g., higher taxes) to pay for the impact on Medicaid, schools and other services that those children will need. The system isn’t adequately funded now, and we’re just making the situation worse.

As usual, political extremists aren’t looking at the larger picture or the problems that have to be addressed. Once the public finds out the mess and costs being dumped on it, they’re not going to be happy. But by that point, the extremists will be off to another tangent.

Just to be clear, I don’t see a government role in telling anyone what to do or not do with their own body. A fetus is part of a woman’s body until birth. Allowing government to control what is inside a body sets an extraordinary precedent for extension of government control to a large range of behaviors and the complete elimination of personal privacy. The people advocating that control really haven’t put enough thought into it.

Sources:

  1. https://www.guttmacher.org/fact-sheet/state-facts-about-abortion-mississippi
  2. https://www.johnstonsarchive.net/policy/abortion/usa/ab-usa-MS.html
  3. https://www.statista.com/topics/2243/foster-care-and-adoption-in-the-us/#dossierKeyfigures
  4. https://www.census.gov/data/tables/time-series/demo/families/children.html
  5. https://www.census.gov/data/tables/time-series/demo/families/children.html
  6. https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2022/06/24/what-the-data-says-about-abortion-in-the-u-s-2/

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9 comments

  1. Thanks Vic. Our nation is also a world leader in maternal mortality rates for civilized counties, which is due to lack of healthcare access, food resources and education. As for abortions, one of the reasons for the decline is better access to birth control. So, one of the Supreme Court justices wants to limit birth control, which will increase the number of abortions. Not to mention making women and men mad as hell. Justice Thomas needs to be told that is an inane idea, but also that he is a judge not a politician. Keith

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Many thanks, Vic, for giving us facts. Some stupefying facts, such as the maternal mortality rate in the U.S. as compared to other western nations. And yet some claim this is the ‘greatest’ country on earth? For whom?

    Liked by 1 person

    • There is no enforcement of state reporting, and some GOP governors have actually ordered their states not to report. The estimates are based on demographics for the remainder of the US and are pretty solid. There’s no real reason why a 25-year-old white female in Florida should behave dramatically differently from a 25-yea-old white female in California, Virginia or Colorado.

      Like

    • Vic, I’m not sure we can blame “not reporting” on GOP governors. I looked again at the years. From 1997 to 2019, 3 to 7 states did not report the number of abortions. The only thing that was constant is that CA and NH did not report during this period.

      Like

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