“The results change for some variables because I use different data. Despite the change in the data, both versions of the study find strong support for the contention that welfare spending and male employment helped reduce the abortion rate in the 1990s. Whether I include or exclude certain states (e.g. Kansas) that New excludes from his study, my results remain the same. Similarly, whether I weight data or not, the results remain.”
He said these and other issues will be addressed in a note to be posted on Wednesday.
“The larger point here is that in social science research, findings can change when you use new data,” Wright’s e-mail to CNA concluded. “The main conclusions concerning the socioeconomic determinants of abortion remain robust. As we collect new data through the early 2000s, we will rerun the models and report new results. This is how research works.”
However, Professor New also pointed out that events in the political arena were impacted by the first study.
In an essay at MoralAccountability.com, New accused Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good of misleading the public and referred to “plenty of peer reviewed studies” which find that public funding restrictions and parental involvement laws reduce the incident of abortion.
He claimed the study had a “substantial impact” on the pro-life debate in the 2008 Presidential election and gave “intellectual legitimacy” to those such as Doug Kmiec and Nicholas Cafardi who argued that pro-life voters should vote for Democrats to advance the pro-life cause.
In a Tuesday e-mail to CNA, Prof. New said that the research produced by Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good seems unwilling to acknowledge the “positive effect of pro-life laws such as parental involvement and informed consent laws.”
CNA asked New to speculate why welfare spending generally does not decrease the abortion rate.
He suggested that welfare “undermines societal mores against premarital sex” by enabling women to have more children out of wedlock. Welfare may result in more unplanned pregnancies and possibly more abortions, New said.
“Regardless of how generous welfare benefits are, women facing crisis pregnancies can find financial and medical resources at one of the thousands of crisis pregnancy centers across the country,” he added.
New noted the finding in both the current and previous versions of the group’s report that shows higher female employment is correlated with higher abortion rates.
“This is an interesting finding and would be a good topic for future research,” he said. “It is possible that women are more likely to seek employment when the economy is doing badly and the bad economy is increasing abortion rates. It is also possible that states with higher female employment might be those states with more liberal attitudes toward abortion.”
Asked to name further studies on the effects of pro-life laws on abortion rates, New referenced a 1986 study of the Massachusetts Parental Notice law published in the American Journal of Public Health. While the number of Massachusetts minors obtaining abortions in other states increased by an average of 66 per month after the law took effect, the number of abortions performed on minors inside Massachusetts fell by an average of 149 per month.
A 1991 study showed the minor abortion rate in Minnesota fell by 28 percent after a parental notification law was enacted in 1981. Additionally, a 2006 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that a Texas notification law that took effect in 2000 resulted in a fall in abortion rates of between 11 and 20 percent depending on the age group.
New also mentioned a 2002 study which showed that Medicaid recipients have a higher incidence of abortion in states where Medicaid funds the procedure.
“In states that provide Medicaid funding for abortions, women with Medicaid coverage had an abortion rate more than four times as high as women without such coverage (89 vs. 21 per 1,000),” New summarized. “In contrast, in states that do not cover abortion services for women on Medicaid, the abortion rate among Medicaid recipients was only twice that of women without Medicaid coverage (35 vs. 16 per 1,000).”
While the Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good study reports an increase in abortion rates in states where abortions are funded by Medicaid, New charged: “they do not give this finding much attention in the write-up.”
“Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good continues to miss opportunities with their abortion research,” New told CNA.
“I think that they would be more effective if they would be more willing to publicly acknowledge the positive impact of pro-life legislation and try to constructively work with pro-life groups to promote social policies that will further reduce abortion rates. Instead Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good seems primarily interested in providing moral, political, and theological cover for supporters of Barack Obama and other Democrats who support ‘abortion rights.’”