Friday, August 19, 2005

Fuzzy math (or is it furry?)

Got to go for a ride with Alpha and Beta yesterday, and noticed one of those signs along the highway. This one said "One of four babies dies from choice."

I won't talk about the use of language to polarize and divide - others have done it and done it better, but I thought to myself "Wow! One in four... that's 25%... That seems awfully high.... Wonder if it's true?"

So this morning, after my inspection tour around the neighborhood, I went looking for some actual numbers. Thanks to Google and the CDC, I got this:

"A total of 857,475 legal induced abortions were reported to CDC for 2000 from 49 reporting areas, representing a 0.5% decrease from the 861,789 legal induced abortions reported by 48 reporting areas for 1999 and a 1.3% decrease for the same 48 reporting areas that reported in 1999. The abortion ratio, defined as the number of abortions per 1,000 live births, was 246 in 2000 (for the same 48 reporting areas as 1999), compared with 256 reported for 1999. This represents a 3.8% decline in the abortion ratio. The abortion rate (for the same 48 reporting areas as 1999) was 16 per 1,000 women aged 15--44 years for 2000. This was also a 3.8% decrease from the rate reported for procedures performed during 1997--1999 for the same 48 reporting areas."

So in 2000 (the most recent numbers available), the ratio looked like this - 246:1000. Now if I have a beef-bone-to-pork-bone ratio like that, it means I have 1246 bones total, or 19.7% beef bones, a little less than one in five.

I realize two things:

(1) We're not talking dogfood here, we're talking about a far more serious human issue.
(2) Regardless of which side of the abortion issue you count yourself on, everyone would prefer (too weak a word) an abortion ratio lower than 246:1000.

My point, of course, is that "One of five babies dies from choice" would have been just as forceful, and far more accurate. This isn't an issue that needs sloppy math to distort the reality.

On a lighter note, there are three red squirrels and two grey squirrels begging to be chased. That's a 3:2 ratio, but still five squirrels total :)

Edit: There's a 2004 look at partial numbers here: Houston Chronicle

Edit2: And FactCheck puts the record straight... On the numbers. No one seems to want to deal with the suggestion that the biggest reason given for requesting an abortion is economic...

Now can I go chase squirrels???

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