Multiple articles have revealed the state of Iowa has seen roughly a 25% spike in abortion. Many are blaming the state’s decision to withdraw from the federally funded family planning program. In this article by Jackie Pascale, it is further explained:
“The program was replaced with a state-run version, which barred Planned Parenthood’s participation.” This withdrawal occurred in 2017. Mark Anderson, Chairman of the Iowa Council of Human Services explains, “The takeaway is that when accessibility to birth control declines, the number of unplanned pregnancies increases.” So, the gut reaction to this number is that Planned Parenthood’s involvement prevents abortions.
These three articles all have the same thing in common: they analyze the spike in abortion with a univariate analysis. In other words, the only variable they use to draw their conclusion is the withdrawal from federal family planning.
What’s Wrong with This Conclusion?
Every article ignores another possible explanation for the spike: the 2018 Iowa Supreme Court decision that overturned the 72-hour abortion waiting period. Previously, a woman had to wait 72 hours after an initial appointment to get an abortion. Withholding this fact makes the pro-life legislators who barred the funding and withheld funds from Planned Parenthood culpable for the spike in abortion and ignores the consequences of the 2018 court decision. A 2019 article from USA Today explains the impact of different variables:
“The CDC’s 2018 report on the declining abortion rate says that in addition to more contraceptive use, the availability of abortion providers and regulations such as mandatory waiting periods and parental consent could also be contributing to fewer women having abortions.” The media either does not know or does not care that there are multiple reasons for a rise or decline in abortion. It’s a classic statistical blunder: correlation does not equal causation. Seemingly, the reason for a spike in abortion is contingent upon whether pro-lifers can be blamed or not.
The failure of a pro-life law requiring a waiting period during roughly the same time-frame of this spike is worth investigating. All available evidence suggests that birth control DOES NOT reduce abortion rates; about half of women seeking abortions report using contraception at the time they became pregnant. Planned Parenthood’s condoms have historically been reported low in quality, and it’s widely conjectured that they depend on birth control failures for abortion sales. If media outlets are going to boldly assign blame to a rise in abortions, it is reasonable to expect sound analysis. Sadly in this case we do not have it.