Re: A possible case of abusing science

From: bivalve <>
Date: Wed Jun 30 2004 - 20:06:21 EDT

> I received the email below (snipped propaganda from it) from the FRC.
> Does anyone know if this study compensated for demographics, age, or any
> other possible linking factor?

The abstract is available (and the article is available for $30) from:

The university has an electronic subscription with a one-month time lag, so I can look up details before too long if anyone wants them.

David C. Reardon, Priscilla K. Coleman, and Jesse R. Cougle. 2004. Substance Use Associated with Unintended Pregnancy Outcomes in the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth. The American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse , Volume 30 , Issue 2, Pages: 369 383.

Abortion is known to be associated with higher rates of substance abuse, but no studies have compared substance use rates associated with abortion compared to delivery of an unintended pregnancy. This study examines data for women in the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth whose first pregnancy was unintended. Women with no pregnancies were also used as a control group. Use of alcohol, marijuana, cocaine, and behaviors suggestive of alcohol abuse were examined an average of four years after the target pregnancy among women with prior histories of delivering an unintended pregnancy (n=535), abortion (n=213), or those who reported no pregnancies (n=1144). Controls were instituted for age, race, marital status, income, education, and prepregnancy self-esteem and locus of control. Compared to women who carried an unintended first pregnancy to term, those who aborted were significantly more likely to report use of marijuana (odds ratio: 2.0), with the difference in these two gr!
approaching significance relative to the use of cocaine (odds ratio: 2.49). Women with a history of abortion also reported more frequent drinking than those with a history of unintended birth. With the exception of less frequent drinking, the unintended birth group was not significantly different from the no pregnancy group. Resolution of an unintended pregnancy by abortion was associated with significantly higher rates of subsequent substance use compared to delivering an unintended pregnancy. A history of abortion may be a useful marker for identifying women in need of counseling for substance use.

An article addressing similar issues is available, more or less complete (biobliographic data and abstract not very obvious), at

It is from the same journal, but Feb. 2000.

David C. Reardon, Philip G. Ney. 2000. Abortion and Subsequent Substance Abuse (Statistical Data Included). p. 61-?

Author's Abstract: COPYRIGHT 2000 Marcel Dekker, Inc.
A statistical association between a history of substance abuse and a history of abortion has been identified in several studies, but this association has not yet been thoroughly analyzed. This study draws on a subset of data from a reproductive history survey that included a nonparametric self-assessment of past substance abuse distributed to a random sample of American women. Analysis of this substance abuse variable showed that a report of substance abuse following a first pregnancy was associated significantly with (a) abortion for all women, (b) abortion for adolescents, and (c) abortion for women over 19 years of age. Women who aborted a first pregnancy were five times more likely to report subsequent substance abuse than women who carried to term, and they were four times more likely to report substance abuse compared to those who suffered a natural loss of their first pregnancy (i.e., due to miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy, or stillbirth). Women with a history of abort!
 ion or a
history of substance abuse were significantly more likely to feel discomfort in responding to the survey. The findings of this study have important implications for the design of future studies examining substance abuse, adolescents, and women. These findings may also have clinical and counseling implications.


From the abstract alone of the 2004 article, I can't judge the statistical effort, but the last sentence suggests that they looked at substance abuse subsequent to the abortion. The 2000 article clearly focused on the substance abuse as subsequent to the abortion.

What is not proven is the extent to which both abortion and substance abuse reflect a common underlying cause (e.g., those coping poorly with stress are more likely to do both); perhaps they could look at the frequency of abortion following substance abuse. The 2000 paper cites a dissertation with the advantage of in-depth interviews and corresponding disadvatage of small sample size, in which many of those interviewed saw the abortion as a motivating factor in their substance abuse.

Abortion is certainly an area in which science is often abused. Given the plank-speck phenomenon, examples from pro-abortion advocates readily come to my mind (e.g., claiming that abortion is perfectly safe; invoking a garbled memory of Haekelian embryology in support of denying that an embryo is human), though there's also the antievolutionary labeling of abortion as evolutionary that is also bad science. As far as I can tell from the brief quote, the FRC probably accurately represented the results of this study, though the "propaganda" might involve unwarranted extrapolation.

    Dr. David Campbell
    Old Seashells
    University of Alabama
    Biodiversity & Systematics
    Dept. Biological Sciences
    Box 870345
    Tuscaloosa, AL 35487-0345 USA

That is Uncle Joe, taken in the masonic regalia of a Grand Exalted Periwinkle of the Mystic Order of Whelks-P.G. Wodehouse, Romance at Droitgate Spa
Received on Wed, 30 Jun 2004 20:06:21 -0400

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