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abortion

abortion

Politics and Science

abortion, abstinence, contraception, mothers, news, reproductive technology, women's health No comments

By Pat Fagan, Ph.D., Director of MARRI

NBC News and many others have lauded the results of the Peipert program evaluation of the effects of LARCs (long term reversible contraceptives), namely IUDs and implant contraceptives, which they claim have (unsurprising) effects in lowering abortions.  However, there is much to dispute about the study.   Its method is almost non-existent though a lot of words are used to describe it.  This means their results may be a massive underestimation of the effects or even a massive overestimation of the effects.  We just don’t know;  the “method” is totally unreliable.  It is analogous to going into a library to find out the level of reading in the local population, or to giving a book to those you find at a library to figure out the effect of reading on such people!  In this case they go to a group of women desirous of reversible control methods.  To make matters worse: they have no comparison control group. They do not line up treatment and control (absolutely fundamental to this type of study), but they insinuate comparisons. The project team went through all sorts of contortions to estimate the effects, but they avoided the obvious simple, fundamental step of having a control group.  This is political correctness trumping good scholarship (a dangerous trend in the social sciences that will eventually come back to haunt academia).
Though I am opposed to their way of thinking and acting (more anon), I would have expected LARCs to have had much better results than they did.  There is still way too high a rate of abortion from a method one would expect to virtually totally eliminate it. This much-lauded method does not come close.     
 
Other big concerns I have about this approach to avoiding abortions is the effect of this form of behavior on the long-term marital, family, parenting, and sexual habits of the women involved.  My prediction is that young women who use these methods (who would not feel sexually liberated with totally effective birth control methods) will have many more sexual partners, behavior that itself increases the likelihood of procuring an abortion.  The program will also have high STD effects, likely have very significant effects on future marital stability, and in turn have significantly weakening effects on these women’s future children’s life outcomes.  That STD rate effects would be tracked and measured is something one would expect to be second nature for OBGYNs to report upon.  Maybe there is a second study coming (but that would be useless too, given no control group.)
So: failing grades on method and on narrowness of their view of effectiveness.  And failing grades also are given to the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology for rushing shoddy work to press in order to influence the Presidential campaigns.  That is really sad.  It definitely is not good science, nor good politics either, though we would expect medical science to stay above the political fray.  All in all, it is a sad day for medicine and science. 

For an in-depth analysis of the study, see Dr. Michael New’spiece.

Conservatives and the “War on Women”

abortion, feminism, women's health No comments

By Sarah Robinson, Intern 

I would like to address the rhetoric that we hear reported through our news media regarding the “war on women” which conservatives are supposedly instigating.  Conservatives are generally labeled with this accusation because of the pro-life stance with which the Republican Party aligns.  But the pro-life position actually protects women’s health against the negative effects of abortion.  
A pamphlet titled The Top Ten Myths About Abortion, compiled by FRC’s William L. Saunders, Cathy Cleaver Ruse, and Lucia Papayova, contains research findings about the effects of abortion on women.  This research has debunked the myth that abortion is a “good” medical procedure for women.  According to the pamphlet, physical complications from an abortion “include cervical lacerations and injury, uterine perforations, bleeding, hemorrhage, serious infection, pain, and incomplete abortion.  Risks of complications increase with gestational age.”  Physical complications can also arise with the abortifacient RU-486.  Risks include hemorrhage, infection, and missed ectopic pregnancy. 
This pamphlet also notes some of the key psychological effects associated with abortion.  A New Zealand research team compiled data from a 25-year period and “found conclusively that abortion in young women is associated with increased risks of major depression, anxiety disorder, suicidal behaviors, and substance dependence.”  This is the most exhaustive research ever conducted regarding abortion.  Other studies suggest a substantial evidence of connection between induced abortion and both substance abuse and suicide.  Women may also experience anxiety, anger, flashbacks, guilt, grief, denial, and relationship problems.  These symptoms are generally identified as Post-Abortion Syndrome, a subset of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.  Adolescents who have had abortions, compared to those who have given birth, report more sleeping problems, frequent marijuana use, and increased need for psychological counseling. 
It is clear that abortion is a dangerous choice for women. A woman’s likelihood of having an abortion increases when she or her child’s father grew up in a non-intact family and is not religious. It decreases, however, when the woman or her child’s father grew up in an intact married home and makes religious attendance a regular part of life (see MARRI research here, here, and here). Conservatives, who tend to be pro-marriage and pro-religion as well as pro-life, are not waging a war on women. On the contrary, they may be women’s best allies in this fight.

What Kind of Equality are We Concerned With?

abortion, contraception, family, feminism, marriage No comments

Eileen Gallagher, Intern
In the past few months many people have been discussing the “War on Women.” In the news there has been a focus both on women’s “reproductive rights” and sex-selective abortions. These topics are very controversial because anyone who dares to think contraception or abortion is bad is contradicting feminist ideals, which include freedom, choice, and tolerance. Interestingly, recent research shows that equality between men and women, which feminists have been fighting for since the early 1900s, is no longer a problem. Two topics often discussed in the feminist movement are salary differences between men and women, as well as the persistent lack of women as top executives in the professional world. For feminists this is proof that we still live in a male dominated culture and that women are still oppressed. 
In 2008 Susan Pinker published a book called The Sexual Paradox which explores the paradox that “after decades of women’s educational coups and rising through the ranks, men still outnumber women in business, physical science, law, engineering and politics.” The author explains the paradox, basing her argument in human nature. Men and women are different. In the past 50 years women have had the same opportunities as men in world of education, and gradually girls have had greater academic successes than boys. The ratio of girls to boys among valedictorians or honors students in schools throughout the country is proof of the change. Girls, on average, get better grades than boys in school, and in the past few years more women than men have been graduating from college and graduate programs. If there is a war involving women in the education world, the women are winning it. 
But Susan Pinker’s paradox has not been answered: if women are more successful than men at a younger age, why do they still get paid less than men? This is when an understanding of human nature can provide answers. Women have innate maternal instincts, and even if they do not become biological mothers, many (though of course not all) women would rather work with and help people (e.g., social work and nursing are female-dominated professions) rather than doing the design work of engineers, or the lab work of scientists. Certainly some women enjoy these jobs, but many gravitate toward careers where they feel they are making a tangible difference in people’s lives. The careers that pay the most, such as engineering, computer science, architecture, and medicine, often are unattractive to women because of the type of work or the demanding hours. Many women want to be become mothers and it is nearly impossible for a doctor doing her residency to also have a newborn baby. A woman who wants to have children often chooses to be a nurse or a teacher, who will not earn as much as a doctor, but will have flexibility to be available for her children. The Marriage and Religion Research Institute showed that people are more likely to report being proud of the work they do if they are married. It seems that marriage and family life can bring about greater happiness in the working world, contrary to the feminists’ ideas.
Human nature explains the pay difference, as well as the lack of women as top executives. The path to become a senior staff member in a company generally involves decades of long hours, late nights, and little vacation time. Women are capable of this, but often do not want it. Many mothers gladly give up their dreams of a big house and fancy car for a few more hours at home each day, and to greet their children as they come off the bus from school. The feminist movement continues to cry for equality between men and women, but there are different types of equality. Equality of opportunity has been achieved, but equality of outcomes is impossible because men and women are naturally different.

Unnatural Selection, Part II: A Review

abortion, Asia, crime, economics, family, marriage, men, monogamy, polygamy, pro-life, world population No comments
By MARRI Interns
Mara Hvistendahl’s latest book, Unnatural Selection: Choosing Boys over Girls, and the Consequences of a World Full of Men, is a riveting book full of anecdotes that are simultaneously heartbreaking and revelatory of our global opinions toward the value of life, marriage, and women. From the anti-romance of the East China Sea economy of wife trafficking, wherein Asian airports are the inauspicious meeting places of future loving couples, to the yuppie dream of Southern California fertility clinics, wherein a woman can be artificially impregnated during her lunch hour, to the unnervingly nonchalant disposal of aborted fetuses in India, the anecdotes shared in Unnatural Selection reveal a global confusion about the value of baby girls.

Yet, this tome is not the product of an opponent of abortion. Hvistendahl herself admits in the preface that she endorses abortion even though “the finer points of the abortion debate elude me.” She then resorts to this redoubt of agnosticism in order to withhold her judgment on a practice whose ramifications she lambasts on every page: “Since I refuse to venture a guess at when life begins, this is not a book about death and killing… but about the potential for life—and denying that potential to the very group responsible for perpetuating our beleaguered species.”

With this preface, thus begins Hvistendahl’s 300-page endeavor to elucidate the defining demographic dynamic of our day—the global paucity of women and its attendant social disturbances. She primarily investigates the effects of this demographic inequality in Asia, where the social sciences display unanimously pernicious effects of the lack of women, including a rise in violent crime. Studies across China show “a clear link between a large share of males and unlawfulness, concluding a mere 1 percent increase in sex ratio at birth resulted in a five to six point increase in an area’s crime rate.” Nor are these trends confined only to China: “The best way to predict whether a certain part of India has a high murder rate, indeed, is to look at its sex ratio.” Bachelors report generally lower standards of living than married men, culminating in poorer physical and mental health, and a shorter lifespan. 

By increasing the rate of crime, the sex selection bias against women thus creates a social dynamic similar to that of a society in which the number of available women is depleted by polygamy. In “The Puzzle of Monogamous Marriage,” a recent articlepublished in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of Biological Sciences, Joseph Henrich and colleagues use an elementary economic model to explain the rise of monogamous marriage as a social dynamic designed to foment a number of beneficial social dynamics, including “reduc[ing] the size of the pool of unmarried men.” In economic terms, both polygamy (when more than one woman enters a marriage relationship with one man) and sex selection against females creates a deficit of women in the pool of available marriage partners. Elementary economic theory dictates that the “price” of wives will then increase concomitantly with the increase in competition for them. This competition will squeeze lower-class males out of the marriage market since they have neither the financial resources nor the social standing to attract women. Consequently, the less affluent and socially inferior men are left without brides. This is doubly pernicious since it is exactly that class of men that is most likely to commit crimes, and “across all crimes, marriage reduces a man’s likelihood of committing a crime by 35%.”

Furthermore, Henrich et al. postulate that this paucity of women will be equally deleterious toward the women themselves: “the reduced supply of unmarried women, who are absorbed into polygamous marriages, causes men of all ages to pursue younger and younger women.”

Nicholas Eberstadt of The New Atlantis elaborateseven further upon the negative social effects of a sex selection-induced decline of women and applies them globally to say that “sex-selective abortion is by now so widespread and so frequent that it has come to distort the population composition of the entire human species.” Thus the pernicious trends identified in Hvistendahl’s book as sweeping the Asian subcontinent presents serious hazards for the future of the entirety of mankind. If the international demographic data is to be believed at all, one must confess that all is not well with the global practice of abortion.

Dr. Henry Potrykus, Senior Fellow at the Marriage and Religion Research Institute, has also done work on demographics and the future of the West illustrating not only the effects of abortion or sex-selective abortion, but the decline in women’s fertility in general. He finds that “[t]he peoples of the West are self-depleting because of the adoption of extra-marital sexual norms coupled with a rejection of fertility: Negative trends in the openness to marriage and the openness to children drive an exponential decrease in the generations to come in Europe.”

To address this decline in fertility, Potrykus suggests that society must re-adopt stable marriage between a man and a woman as a societal norm. Governments and cultures must reject the non-sustainable model of society that is devoid of religion but open to polymorphous sexuality and serial polygamy. Placing religion and family at the center of a culture is the only way to make it thrive.

Sex-Selective Abortion: Consumerism at Its Best?

abortion, Asia, China, family, Jennifer Roback Morse, prostitution, women, women's health No comments
By Obed Bazikian, Intern
Abortion is seen by many who defend it to be a protected right of women. However, there is a murmur starting even among its supporters[1]that this claimed right could in some cases not only be unethical, but harmful to society. The issue at hand is sex-selective abortion, which refers to aborting an unborn child based on his or her gender, and is almost universally affecting the female population.
 
Asia alone has an estimated 160 million women lacking in its population as a result— a number greater than all the women currently in the United States.[2]One city in China, Lianyungang, was found to have “163 boys for every 100 girls under age five.” [3]While the Chinese government’s one-child policy[4]is indeed a major contributor that encourages this practice, it does not explain the cause for sex-selective abortions in other nations. India, the Caucasus nations, and others are increasingly choosing boys over girls before birth. Armenia’s ratio is currently 120 males to 100 females.[5]The shortage of females being born now will lead to an even greater disparity in the future, if this alternative practice of “choice” is permitted to continue unchecked.
In her book Unnatural Selection, Mara Hvistendahl analyzes the reasons for the increased rate of female sex-selective abortions and its consequences on society. One reason is simply preference, she says, citing that “parents in nearly all cultures say they prefer boys.” Through further analysis, Hvistendahl says that the increased accessibility to medical technology, such as ultrasound, in many regions of the world also contributes to the imbalance. The fact that ultrasound has become more affordable to a broader population has indeed made choosing boys even easier.
 
What are the ramifications of this choice? One obvious result is a smaller number of women to marry, which would have effects on the demographics of this and later generations. However, the lack of women would foster a climate in which crime could increase tremendously, particularly prostitution and sex-slavery. Jennifer Roeback Morse of the Ruth Institute discussed Hvistendahl’s work, saying, “The exclusive sharing of sexual intimacy with a husband in the protective bonds of marriage becomes more expensive than arrangements giving multiple men access to a single woman. Hence, prostitution, voluntary or otherwise, becomes lucrative as the demand for commercial sex increases. In addition, men without wives are more likely to become violent and commit crimes.”[6]The illusion of intimacy found in commercial sex takes prominence in a society where true, healthy companionship is not encouraged or, in societies with too few women, is not often possible.
There is another ramification to choice which takes place at a cultural level. Hvistendahl has at the end of her book a conversation with Dr. Jeffrey Steinberg, who founded a fertility clinic in Los Angeles. The clinic now advertises for sex-selective abortion, guaranteeing 100% the gender desired, which has proved to be a very popular request at his facility. Steinberg has said “Gender selection is a commodity for purchase…If you don’t like it, don’t buy it.”[7]However, this is a very slippery slope. If Steinberg argues that gender is a commodity, what is to stop us from viewing life as a commodity, too? Of course, choosing gender and choosing life are not the same thing. But where are the limits to our choices? A life has value and is beautiful, whether it is male or female. If our culture does not place value upon life itself as God has ordained, gender selection may just be the tip of the iceberg.


[1] Morse, Jennifer Roback. “Unnatural Selection,” MercatorNet.com, February 6, 2012, http://www.mercatornet.com/articles/view/unnatural_selection
[2] Mara Hvistendahl, “Unnatural Selection: Choosing Boys Over Girls, and the Consequences of a World Full of Men,” (PublicAffairs, 2011), 5-6
[3] Mara Hvistendahl, “Unnatural Selection: Choosing Boys Over Girls, and the Consequences of a World Full of Men,” (PublicAffairs, 2011), 23
[4] Hesketh, Therese. “The Effect of China’s One-Child Family Policy after 25 Years,” The New England Journal of Medicine 353 (September 2005): 1171-1176, http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMhpr051833#t=article
[5] Mara Hvistendahl, “Unnatural Selection: Choosing Boys Over Girls, and the Consequences of a World Full of Men,” (PublicAffairs, 2011), 13
[6] Morse,Jennifer Roback. “Unnatural Selection,” MercatorNet.com, February 6, 2012, http://www.mercatornet.com/articles/view/unnatural_selection
[7] Mara Hvistendahl, “Unnatural Selection: Choosing Boys Over Girls, and the Consequences of a World Full of Men,” (PublicAffairs, 2011), 251

It Takes a Family Structure

abortion, family, fathers, marriage, men No comments

By Julia Kiewit, Staff

There are many factors that influence an individual’s views on life and family, particularly the sense of duty that men have when it comes to children. One study has found that men who father a child out of wedlock have varying responses to that child, based on their own family of origin. If the father grew up in a family that was on welfare, he is less likely to marry the baby’s mother.1 However, if he came from a family that did not need to receive welfare, he is more likely to marry her. Additionally, marriage makes a difference in deciding whether or not to keep a child, and presumably affects the amount of responsibility men are willing to accept. Married couples are much less likely to seek an abortion compared to other relationships. A Guttmacher survey found that cohabiting women accounted for 20.2% of women having an abortion (but make up only 5.8 of women of reproductive age). In contrast, married women only accounted for 18.4% of all induced abortions (but make up 49.9% of reproductive aged women).2

Region is also a predictor of a man’s response to life. The Intergenerational Panel Study of Parents and Children found that 18-year-olds who said that religion was important in their lives were less supportive of abortion, as well as premarital sex, than their peers who said religion was less important to them.3

MARRI’s series “Mapping America” looks at the effects of marriage and religion on various sociological outcomes, including the likelihood of fathers encouraging an abortion.
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1 Madeline Zavodny, “Do Men’s Characteristics Affect Whether a Nonmarital Pregnancy Results in Marriage?” Journal of Marriage and the Family 61 (August 1999): 764-773.
2 S.K. Henshaw and K Kost, “Abortion Patients in 1994-1995: Characteristics and Contraceptive Use,” Family Planning Perspectives 28 (1996): 140.
3 L.D. Pearce and A. Thornton, “Religious Identity and Family Ideologies in the Transition to Adulthood,” Journal of Marriage and Family 69 (2007): 1227-1243.