Tags: medical definition of abortion

15 Jan 2007, Comments Off on Blog for Choice day

Blog for Choice day

Author: Helen

Image from http://www.bushvchoice.com/blog_choice_day.html

Something I didn’t know: January 22 is the anniversary of Roe V Wade. I just found that out from Pandagon. I also learned that January 22 is Blog for Choice day.

As my own personal contribution to that, I’d like to investigate the factoid that Australia enjoys 100,000 elective abortions a year.

This comfortably round statistic (and its very neatness, and the fact it never changes from one year to the next, should make you suspicious at once), is employed constantly by anti-abortionists in the mainstream media. It depends on a disingenuous (or ignorant) interpretation of the word “abortion”.

First up, the statistics on abortion are problematic. But what statistics there are have come from Medicare items which are assigned numbers and basic descriptions.

In medical language, “abortion” simply means a pregnancy not carried to term. As anyone who has lost a pregnancy will know, women who miscarry usually undergo various procedures that overlap with, or are identical to, the procedures used in elective abortion. This is because infection may occur if the uterus isn’t emptied of its contents.

Therefore, the “100,000 abortions a year” figure is based on the medical definition of abortion – that is, spontaneous abortions of wanted pregnancies, as well as elective abortions. But the people who use this statistic don’t tell you that. They let you think that these “abortions” are all elective. Some of them probably aren’t even aware of the problem.

This obstetrician, interviewed in 2004, says:

CARLTON: Right. So let me just sum that up if I can, and put it into, I hope, simple language. Correct me if I’m wrong. Under this Medicare treatment, as a specific number for a specific procedure, some of those would be abortions, but a great many of them, and perhaps the majority, would be to deal with simple miscarriages–

PESCE: Yes, I believe–

CARLTON: –and the like.

PESCE: Yes, I believe that the majority are for what you would consider a miscarriage, yes.

CARLTON: What sort of majority do you think?

PESCE: Look, I would only be speculating, all right? All I can say is in my personal practice over 90 per cent would be for non-viable pregnancies.

CARLTON: So the number of abortions might be only 10 per cent, and the number of non-viable pregnancies and miscarriages and so on could be 90 per cent?

PESCE: It’s possible, yes.

CARLTON: Right. So this figure being thrown around of 100,000 abortions in Australia each year, is simply not – in no way accurate?

PESCE: Well, it might be accurate, but it’s not accurate if you’re basing it on the Medicare statistics.

Yes, it’s over two years old, but the anti-abortionists have been peddling the same figure for much longer than that.

The Marie Stopes website quotes a WEL estimate of 25,000.

I’ve written to the AGE twice recently to point out that the 100,000 abortions a year thing is a factoid and they should stop publishing it so uncritically – it’s one thing to have it embedded in a quote by Abbott and Co, and quite another to have it in an opinion article by one of their staff writers, or in the Letters page, with no disclaimer. Is Fairfax quietly pushing the anti-choice agenda? Doesn’t anyone there notice that they’re printing a false statistic almost daily?

Dear reader, do you know of any statistics or sources on the actual number of elective abortions in Australia? If so, could you kindly furnish them forthwith in a comment in time for Blog for Choice day? Thanks!