“Since parental involvement laws only directly affect minors, Wright should have mentioned that analyzing their effects on the overall abortion rate is not a methodologically sound way to gauge their actual impact,” New wrote.
The argument that informed consent laws are ineffective, New claimed, fails to acknowledge the “substantial differences” in the effects of informed consent laws that have been enacted and those that have been nullified. By the report’s criteria, New argued, the results provide evidence that informed consent laws are effective.
CNA also sought comment from Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good and received a Tuesday e-mail from the study author Joseph Wright.
Wright confirmed that the earlier version of the report was in fact replaced because of erroneous abortion data.
“I discovered that I had used abortions by state of residence for the years 1997 onwards and abortions by state of occurrence before 1997. (Before 1997, the CDC did not collect data on abortions by residence.)”
He explained that Prof. Bailey had requested his name be removed from the report because “he was too busy to deal with the many inquiries after the release of the first report.”
Wright argued that New was incorrect in suggesting that the updated study has no finding for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) spending.
“I find consistent, robust results in the 1990s showing that welfare spending reduces the abortion rate -- using multiple samples, weighting techniques and statistical estimations.”
“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.”
(Story continues below)
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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.