A plague of self-induced abortions in Texas?

If you have any doubts about mass media determination to lie in defense of the abortion industry, you can resolve them by checking out a story on self-induced abortion in Texas that appeared almost everywhere on Wednesday, Nov. 18.  The terrifying tale, as told at Refinery 29, was pretty typical.  It appeared under the title "Texas Women Are Already Living in a Scary Post-Roe v. Wade World."  Similar tales were presented at Slate, The Atlantic, and AllGov.  Local outlets like the Fort Worth Star-Telegram chimed in.  Even Fox News got into the act.  In propaganda terms, the story of a plague of dangerous self-induced abortions (in the red state that dared to pass regulations on abortion mills) was a definite success.

The outline of the tale is always the same.  Texas passed restrictive abortion laws – most outrageously, the requirement that abortion mills meet the same standards as other ambulatory surgical centers.  Readers may recall that the photogenic Wendy Davis achieved media apotheosis by opposing these crazy measures – and later got stomped when she ran for Texas governor.  Now, according to the terrible tale, the direst prognostications of wise pro-choicers have been proved true.  The Texas laws have put essential abortion mills out of business, so that women are now increasingly turning to perilous self-induced abortion methods.  How do we know?  Why, there was a study, that's how!

I was suspicious about this story even before I read the study – because media outlets reported that 100,000 to 240,000 women had tried self-induced abortion as a result of Wendy Davis's defeat in the legislature.  Surely, I thought, this comes close to exceeding the number of abortions per year in Texas even before the failure of Wendy's filibuster. 

And I was right.  Texas reported 68,298 abortions in 2012, the year before the regulatory apocalypse even began to descend.  Abortion mills started closing, we're told, immediately after the offensive laws were passed, even though many provisions of the laws were challenged in court.  In 2013, the year the fearful specter appeared, and the last year for which statistics are currently available, abortions were down to 63,849.  That's nowhere near enough to account for the tidal wave of self-induced abortions asserted in the tale.  It strains credulity to imagine that the numbers as given could be correct.  Passage of the laws simply could not account for 100,000 dangerous procedures in the home, let alone 240,000.  But that's what all the news stories maintained.

The "study," upon examination, doesn't really make such a fantastic allegation.  Nevertheless, it isn't much of a study.  It was conducted not by any rigorous standards of evidence, but merely by the rules that govern telephone polls.  The academics involved contacted a "representative sample" of women and asked them whether they had ever tried to self-induce, whether a friend had ever done so, or whether they thought a friend might have done so.  The operative word here is not "friend."  It is "ever."  Even in its own terms, the study made no effort to show an increase in self-induced abortions since the passage of the disputed laws.  It was totaling the allegations of such procedures from decades back.  The most the report said about the years at issue was on page four: "We suspect that abortion self-induction will increase as clinic-based care becomes more difficult to access."  But suspicions are not the hard facts trumpeted by the terrible tale in its many incarnations.  And, even if there is an increase, it is abundantly clear that it won't be an increase of 240,000 or even 100,000.

Like the fabricated statistics concerning maternal mortality that were used to promote legalized abortion before Roe v. Wade, the 240,000 dangerous self-induced abortions in Texas since 2013 constitute a complete fiction.  But don't expect their fictitious character to make the headlines at Slate or The Atlantic.  If these folks were inclined toward accuracy, they would have read the "study" before they reported on its findings.

Tom Riley is well-known as a poet of the formalist school and maintains a blog entitled Flammeus Gladius.

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