Study included abortion in nation’s mortality statistics
By Randall K. O’Bannon, Ph.D., NRL Director of Education & Research
Editor’s note. My family and I will be on vacation through September 6. I will occasionally add new items but for the most part we will repost “the best of the best” — the stories our readers have told us they especially liked over the last five months. This first ran August 9.
Public health statistics do not, as a rule, take account of the unborn lives lost to abortion when calculating mortality. A team of researchers from the University of North Carolina has challenged this omission and published a paper examining just how much the correction of this omission would change our perceptions of America’s most preventable health crises.
The consequences are enormous, across the board, but the impact is absolutely devastating on black and Hispanic communities. When one considers not only the lives, but the years lost, the loss is staggering.
Something missing from death stats
The paper, “Induced Abortion, Mortality, and the Conduct of Science” was written by James Studnicki, Sharon J. Mackinnon, and John W. Fisher and was published in the June 2016 online edition of the Open Journal of Preventive Medicine.
It starts with a statement both bold and obvious: “There is no credible scientific opposition to the fact that a new genetically distinct human organism begins with fertilization and that, simply stated, human life begins at conception.” The authors then affirm that, barring natural fetal losses (e.g., miscarriage), “conception usually results in a live birth.”
Given that, the authors draw the logical conclusion that abortion results in a human death.
Despite this undeniable truth, these deaths are not counted in the nation’s mortality statistics. When added back in, some astounding conclusions are revealed.
Research the major causes of death in the United States for 2009, as the authors did, and you will find that the top two causes are “diseases of the heart,” which accounted for 599,413 deaths, followed closely by “malignant neoplasms” (cancerous tumors) at 567,628.
Not surprisingly, cancer and heart disease are considered major health concerns, and with good reason.
But when one considers abortion as a cause, it is almost equivalent to the government’s top two causes combined! Using estimates for 2009 from the Guttmacher Institute, Studnicki and colleagues calculate that the 1,152,000 deaths from abortion easily make it the nation’s leading cause of death, responsible, when added back in, for almost a third (32.1%) of all the deaths recorded that year.
Abortion leading cause of death among minorities
While abortion has harmed society as a whole, the impact on minorities is even more significant.
As many pro-lifers know, abortion rates for minorities are considerably higher than they are for whites. Figures cited by authors from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), combined with data from Guttmacher, showed that 11.9% of non-Hispanic white pregnancies were aborted, 17.1% of Hispanic pregnancies, and 35.5% of those of non-Hispanic blacks.
Applied to the overall pregnancy figures, this translates into 383,000 abortions for whites, 252,000 abortions for Hispanics, and 445,000 abortions for blacks. Looked at in relation to other causes of death by race and ethnicity, this makes abortion responsible for 16.4% of white deaths–the third most significant cause behind heart disease and cancer. But abortion is by far the leading cause for Hispanics, responsible for 64% of deaths, and for blacks, at 61.1%– close to two out of every three deaths experienced by these communities.
Lost years as well as lives
The authors point out that much more is involved here than abortion simply increasing the numbers of deaths.
One of the reasons that mortality statistics are carefully collected and scrutinized is to determine how best to focus research and public resources. If cancer, heart disease, or the like constitute the leading preventable causes of death in the United States, it makes some sense to focus attention and funding on those conditions and diseases.
Another way researchers measure the impact of disease is to count not only the lives lost but the relative years lost. This calculates how many additional, potentially productive years of life people would have experienced if they had not succumbed to that particular malady.
“Years of potential life lost,” or YPPL, is the standard used by the NCHS, now pegged as “YYPL 75” to reflect the idea that 75 years is now closer to the average American’s longevity.
However, when abortion is considered and contrasted with other causes of death, the disparity is even more jaw-dropping.
For everyone in the U.S., cancer was responsible for nearly 4.4 million YPLL. Heart disease was responsible just over 3 million. All other remaining causes of death (accidental, homicide, diabetes, respiratory diseases, etc.) were responsible for only about 13 million YPLLs.
The calculations of these researchers on the years of potential life lost due to abortion? Even after subtracting for estimated “natural fetal losses” — a staggering 68.4 million years!
Minorities were hit the hardest. Of the 17.7 million YPLLs lost by Hispanics, nearly 15.5 million (or 87.4%) were due to abortion. Of the 29.4 million YPLLs lost by blacks, 25.4 million (or 86.5%) were from abortion.
The cost is extraordinarily high
No disease, no kind of violence comes close to having the impact on these communities that abortion does. Not only lives are lost, but years of creativity, productivity, and love.
Billions are spent to try to eradicate heart disease, to end cancer, to stop violence. To the extent we succeed and families enjoy a few more years with their loved ones, we all celebrate.
But if the figures are telling us that abortion is, by far, the leading preventable cause of death in the United States, wouldn’t the prevention of abortion represent one of the best possible uses of our time, resources, and efforts?