January 30, 2024

Calling this Pro-Abortion Study Flawed Would Be Generous – Thankfully, It’s Been Debunked


Recently, one of the most asinine examples of politicized “science” we’ve ever seen at Students for Life Action (SFLAction) was publicized by fawning mainstream media – without the fact check so desperately needed. The saga began when National Public Radio (NPR) tried to pull a fast one on us, asking for comment on that specific research data, late at night the day before a publishing deadline. You can read our response to that reporter’s editorialized coverage here.  


READ: Abortionists Offer Abortion as the Antidote to Rape in Wildly Speculative “Research Letter” that Ignores an Alleged Epidemic of Sexual Assault under the Biden Administration’s Watch … and NPR helps.  


Their “news story“ claimed that “a research letter published Wednesday in JAMA Internal Medicine [found] that 64,565 pregnancies have been caused by rape in the 14 states where abortion is banned.” 

To arrive at this conclusion, again according to the article, the researchers “used Bureau of Justice Statistics data on criminal victimization and FBI Uniform Crime Reports to assess the number of vaginal rapes of women, ages 15-45, that happened in those 14 states while abortion bans were in effect. The number they arrived at is approximately 520,000 rapes.” 

Since that story ran, the brilliant Michael New, senior associate scholar at the Charlotte Lozier Institute, did a full breakdown of the faults of this study in The National Review. Below is the side-by-side comparison of the claims made by the JAMA Internal Medicine Research Letter, and New’s own analysis: 


JAMA Internal Medicine Claim: over 500,000 rapes occurred in 14 states in a over a yearlong period. 

National Review Rebuttal: “The authors use data from the CDC’s 2016–17 National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey, which estimated that over 1.4 million women were the victims of a completed forcible rape during a twelve-month period. That is over four times higher than the estimates provided by the Department of Justice’s National Crime Victimization Survey and over ten times higher than FBI data on the number of rapes reported to law enforcement. Furthermore, the CDC data have been criticized for significantly overestimating the incidence of rape.” 


JAMA Internal Medicine Claim: 12.5 percent of the over 500,000 calculated rapes result in a conception. 

National Review Rebuttal: “That is an exceptionally high figure. The results of a survey of over 4,000 women that was published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology in 1996 puts that figure at closer to 5 percent. Furthermore, the 5 percent figure cited in this 1996 journal article is probably high because several survey respondents reported being raped more than once.” 


JAMA Internal Medicine Claim: 64,565 children were conceived in rape. 

National Review Rebuttal: “…if one extrapolates the authors’ calculations to the entire country, there would have been about 178,000 children conceived in rape in 2017. If half of the rape victims decided to obtain abortions, that means that approximately 10 percent of all abortions were performed on rape victims. However, multiple Guttmacher surveys find that only 1 percent of women seeking abortions cite being a rape victim as a reason for obtaining an abortion.” 

New also rightly called out significant conflicts of interest. The lead researcher for this so-called research letter, Dr. Samuel Dickman, is also financially invested in securing more abortions, as he is the medical director of Planned Parenthood Montana and is suing the state to push to allow more abortions. The other author, Kari White, is the executive and scientific director of Resound Research for Reproductive Health, previously known as the Texas Policy Evaluation Project (TxPEP).” 


READ: No, 64,000 Children Have Not Been Conceived in Rape in States with Pro-Life Laws 


New’s expert take down is a masterclass on how to bust open bad journalism and worse science.  

Another element that New didn’t touch on, that helped illustrate the implausibility of the JAMA letter before he offered his analysis, was that since June 2022, when Dobbs was overturned, only 32,000 surplus birth (that is, births beyond the expected or project numbers), were logged according to reporting from CNN:

“Nearly a quarter of people seeking an abortion in the United States were unable to get one due to bans that took effect after the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision, researchers estimate. In the first half of 2023, states with abortion bans had an average fertility rate that was 2.3% higher than states where abortion was not restricted, according to the analysis – leading to about 32,000 more births than expected.” 

There are several implications that we need to consider here, beyond New’s analysis. 

  • Were all 32,000 of those “surprise” births all conceived in rape, if the JAMA Research Letters Papers original assertions were correct?  
  • Were the more than 32,000 other pregnancies that weren’t logged as delivered babies all aborted?  
  • If so, does that mean the women sought abortions outside of the 14 states where abortion is heavily restricted? 

Going even further – why was the focus of the NPR story on the need for more abortion, and not for better law enforcement to prevent rapes? Why wasn’t there a larger call-out against the George Soros funded prosecutors and district attorneys who gleefully push no bail and catch and release for criminals? What about the Joe Biden administration potentially presiding over an epidemic of rape across America?   

This entire saga leaves us with two key takeaways: First, the pro-life movement needs to question every narrative and every so-called expert conclusion, because partisan self-dealing from friendly pro-abortion press is clearly a problem. And second, more than ever, we need a transparent and accountable national abortion reporting law.  

With it, this kind of gotcha journalism and partisan research will have nowhere to go.