Friday, March 24, 2006

Parental Consent Bill - Spurious Facts?

Bryan Fischer with the Idaho Values Alliance has another post encouraging support for Rep Bill Sali’s parental consent bill. Abortion is his big issue and I’ll respect that, but three things bug me about his post.

Fischer writes: “Parental consent laws have proven to be among the most effective at reducing teen abortions. For the 4 ½ years Idaho had a parental consent law in place, before activist judges on the 9th Circuit set it aside, abortions were down by 30% among Idaho teens.”

First, it bugs me that Fischer calls the judge an “activist”. Striking down unconstitutional laws is the judge’s job. Doing the job doesn’t make you activist. This is just an attempt to use emotional language to discredit the judge. If he’s an “activist,” his ruling must be wrong. In fact, courts in other state struck down similar laws for similar reasons.

Second, Fischer throws in “judges on the 9th circuit”, another bugaboo to scare people with. Conservatives have been complaining for years that the 9th circuit is too liberal, and this phrase is just trying to tap into that sentiment. Judge B. Lynn Winmill, who struck down the law, is from Pocatello. He was President of the ISU Student body. I think – though I’m not sure – he’s a Mormon. He is hardly a liberal “activist” judge.

Third, it bugs me that Fischer throws out the “down by 30%” claim without any support. I have looked around and I can’t find anything to support this number. The New York Times recently reported that in Idaho, the abortion rate rose slightly after the parental abortion ban.

Various sites disputed this story, but not convincingly. Michael New, PhD, writing for the conservative Heritage Foundation wrote:

“It is true that in the remaining two states the Times examined, Idaho and Tennessee, the passage of parental-involvement laws had little immediate effect on the abortion rate.” New explained this lack of effect by saying “Idaho already had one of the lowest teen abortion rates in the country prior to the passage of its parental-consent law.” His point being, I guess, that since Idaho’s rate is so low, it’s hard to get it lower with a parental consent bill. And to that I say, well, then why do we need yet another parental consent bill.

New also stated that data from the Alan Guttmacher Institute (AGI) is generally considered reliable. If you go there and scroll to the bottom of the page, you’ll see a chart showing that Idaho’s abortion rate declined a bit, then rose a bit, then started to decline again. I suppose if the rate was 7.5% and it declined to 5%, that is arguably a 30% drop, but I don’t know when the last bill was passed then overturned, so can’t match the bill with the graph. More importantly, look at the stats that show abortion rates dropping throughout the country in the 1990s. More than likely the parental consent bill had nothing to do with the change in rates in Idaho.

I’d appreciate Mr. Fischer posting the basis for his statement.

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