Prof backs off claim that abortions have gone up under Bush; data says opposite is true

WASHINGTON (BP)--As it turns out, abortions have not increased since George W. Bush became president.

Glen Stassen, a former Southern Baptist seminary professor who claimed otherwise shortly before November’s election, acknowledged May 25 that a recent study’s results “are significantly better” than his findings from seven months ago.

Now, it appears to be time for Howard Dean and John Kerry to correct the record as well. Both have made the claim this year, apparently based on Stassen’s faulty statistics, that abortions have increased nationally under the Bush administration, according to FactCheck.org. On the May 22 telecast of NBC News’ “Meet the Press,” Dean went so far as to say abortions “have gone up 25 percent” under Bush, an absurd claim moderator Tim Russert failed to challenge.

The fact is abortions have continued to decline since Bush took office, the Alan Guttmacher Institute reported May 19. According to its estimates based on a new study, AGI said abortions decreased by about 10,000 from 2000 to 2001 and by about another 10,000 in 2002. The rate declined from 21.3 abortions per 1,000 women in 2000 to 21.1 the next year and 20.9 in 2002.

The AGI report was based on an analysis of information from 43 states, while Stassen’s conclusion was derived from a study of 16 states. AGI acknowledged the rate of decline in abortions has slowed since the early 1990s.

AGI does not provide cover for the pro-life movement, either. AGI began as a division of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America and was named after a one-time PPFA president. It became independent in 1977 but remains a special affiliate of PPFA, the country’s leading operator of abortion clinics.

When Stassen made his claim in a column in October, researchers for the National Right to Life Committee described his findings as “mistaken and misleading.” They also pointed out Stassen did not disclose he signed “A Call to Concern,” a 1977 statement that supported the Roe v. Wade opinion legalizing abortion.

Stassen, who characterizes himself as “consistently pro-life,” continued in his May 25 statement to contend Bush’s economic policies have caused the decline in abortions to stall. Those policies have undermined financial support for mothers, increased male unemployment and enlarged the number of Americans without health insurance, Stassen said.

It is “too soon to tell” what the impact of Bush’s policies will be on the abortion rate, AGI President Sharon Camp said in a written release.

Stassen, now an ethics professor at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, Calif., was an ethics professor from 1976-96 at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky.


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