Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Source please?

The Washington Post has a long article (the Reuters article can also be found at Yahoo! Asia News) about abortion in the Philippines, where abortion is typically illegal.

Besides being nearly identical to an advocacy piece you'd typically find on Planned Parenthood's website, the article contains a number of estimates (though they're not called estimates) regarding how many women receive abortions in the Philippines and how many women are hospitalized and die from abortion complications. The article claims "health reports" show that nearly "80,000" Filipino women are treated for abortion complication each year. I'm not sure which "health reports" the reporter used but there was an article in the International Family Planning Perspectives from September 1997 which estimates the number of abortion complications in the Philippines in 1994 to be 80,000. The IFPP is Alan Guttmacher's peer-reviewed research journal.

If you read the IFPP article, it's fairly obvious there is a whole lot of estimating going on there. They need to estimate how many women are hospitalized, they need to estimate how many of those hospitalizations were because of miscarriages as opposed to induced abortion, and they need to estimate how many women who have abortions are hospitalized based on their estimates of how many women were hospitalized for abortion complication. The IFFP article notes there would be 480,618 annual abortions per year in the Philippines if 1 in 6 women (one of a couple of estimates) who have abortions are hospitalized. This statistic matches up with the Post article which says "about half a million women end their pregnancies every year" in the Philippines.

If the Alan Guttmacher Institute is the source of the reporter's abortions statistics why is this and the AGI's ties to Planned Parenthood never mentioned in the article? The reporter sources the AGI for her statistics on what family planning method women used. Why can't she do the same thing for her abortion statistics? Should estimates from a leading abortion advocacy organization really be your sole source of information on how many abortions are performed in a country? And if so, shouldn't your readers at least know that these numbers are coming from an organization that advocates in favor of legal abortion?

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