AP Apparently Dislikes Accurately Representing Abortion Violence

I love the way Freddie introduced a post on abortion late last year. He titled it “you know what we don’t talk about enough? Abortion“. 

I kind of feel the same way about the level of discussion going on with it. I probably would never have mentioned it at all on this blog if it hadn’t been for the incident on Sunday in which a man shot and killed Dr. George Tiller “one of the nation’s few providers of late-term abortions”.

In the fourth paragraph of the AP article, I came across this line:

“But the doctor’s violent death was the latest in a string of shootings and bombings over two decades directed against abortion clinics doctors and staff.” 

After reading that, I decided to look into the statistics of abortion violence with a view toward perhaps creating a visualization about it.

Sadly, there are few things more skewed than abortion violence statistics. I found this pdf on “Abortion Violence and Disruption Statistics” done by the National Abortion Federation and it is mainly propaganda dressed in numbers. But it looks like their numbers on shootings and bombings are verified by legal authorities, so I assume they are pretty accurate. 

Let’s use those statistics to deal with the “string of shootings and bombings over two decades” that the AP talks about. (In order to give the AP the benefit of the doubt, let’s assume that all the “Attemped Murders” of abortion clinic staff involved shooting of some kind. )

According to the NAF document above, this is that the “string of shootings and bombings” looked like over the last 15 years:


Did you know that this is the first abortion related murder since 1998?

I didn’t.

I was under the impression from the AP that abortion killings were like school shootings… the kind of thing that we tragically see on an ongoing basis. (I thought about a graph comparing school violence to abortion violence, but it seemed kind of apples-to-organges to compare sociopathic, psychotic and suicidal teenagers to politically motivated terrorists.) 

Given the actual data, the characterization of this incident as “the latest in a string of shootings and bombings” is deeply dishonest. It embeds into people’s minds the idea that this is a very common tragedy, like school shootings, hurricanes or gang-related violence. In fact, until I looked at the data very recently, I was under exactly that impression. 

It would be much more accurate to say something along the lines of:

This incident has shattered an eight year lull in anti-abortion related shootings, an activity that spiked to record levels in the 90’s.

UPDATE: Upon re-reading my post I realized that it sounded very dry and unfeeling… very matter-of-fact… when I talked about the recent murder. I hope no one got the impression that I’m wholly unphased by this crime. Nothing could be further from the truth. I hope that the fact that referred to crimes of violence against abortion clinics and the staff as acts of terrorism would indicate how I feel about the topic.


  1. politicalmath says:


    Sadly, Twitter is a terrible place to gave an extended conversation, so I’ll give you the facts here.

    “they try to imply Obama is spending 8.2 trillion”

    Problem 1: I didn’t imply anything. I’m reporting on Obama’s own budget numbers.

    Problem 2: The video isn’t talking about federal spending, which is reported in the federal budget. The video is talking about the federal debt. If we’re talking about spending alone, Obama’s planned spending over the next 8 years equals about $30 trillion dollars. So, yes, it would be quite stupid to imply that Obama is spending only $8.2 trillion.

    Problem 3: We’ve not gone down that rabbit trail far enough, so let’s get back to the point. If @Shoq is trying to say that it would be stupid to say that Obama is going to increase the debt by $8.2 trillion, then I think he should apologize to the president, who is not at all stupid.

    It’s all in the budget proposal, if @Shoq would like to take the time to read it for himself (herself? I can never tell online).

  2. politicalmath says:

    Sorry… I’m very new to all this Twitter stuff 🙂

  3. FrankC says:

    To be fully conversant in twitter takes a bit of effort since it’s basically simple but complex in use.

    Actually Shoq is probably one of the most knowledgeable about how twitter works, thats how he knows to expand his following. he uses that knowledge to get the best of his posts and negate the ones that may contradict him.

    Shoq is very clever, witty, humorous, caustic, nice and nasty. Plus an avid liberal or anti-all others.

    One thing is that he knows how twitter works, so that if he wants to he can get twitter to shut you down. What he’d do is tell his followers to block you, and then when they do, it’ll be a “account is flagged for suspicious or nefarious activity” so something like that or your account is suspected of spam.

    Hope this helps – Actually this all started with I thought was a fairly innocuous post using your video – numbers are numbers – expecting maybe a link to an opposing viewpoint or just ignoring me. Oh well.

  4. FrankC says:

    And lastly .. yea sure!

    This is a shoq post that shows he’s serious about being an influence. Crazier things. The MSM is now using twitter as a yardstick of folks ideas, leanings, etc

    @Shoq: rt @KimSherrell: 100 Most Influential People in Twitter. http://bit.ly/17aLO6 //I’m 3 points behind ya, woman. BE AFRAID 🙂

  5. Joe Felice says:

    You hit the nail on the head with how the AP should have described the shooting. I gotta say though that my first reaction on seeing your graph was that abortion clinic terrorism may be a phenomenon exclusive to periods when the right-wing media is encouraging their listeners to panic. Admittedly one event is not enough to say.

  6. Carolynp says:

    Actually, couldn’t we extrapolate that if the left was serious about protecting abortionists, they would only elect Republican presidents?

  7. aro says:

    one might say that the lack of incidents during republican presidency is due to the fact that republican conservatives tend more toward the “we’re gonna abolish abortion” standpoint. if people think there’s a chance the government will go against abortion, they feel satisfied to let the gov’t do its thing… whereas, under “liberal” government, which is generally permissive on such issues, people feel the need to take matters of harassing those they consider wrongdoers into their own hands.

  8. politicalmath says:

    My inclination is to say that extrapolating anything from a single data point is probably going to result in extremely poor causation assumptions.

  9. aro says:

    right you are. 🙂

    but it sure is fun!

  10. politicalmath says:


    can’t argue with that.

  11. Carolynp says:

    OK, I tend towards the “just make stuff up” school of statistics in any case. Aro makes a really good sociological point there. This would make a good thesis paper for an enterprising grad student.

  12. jmv0405 says:

    I think, however, you will see a rise in abortion murders now. When a democrat is in office, it can be seen by conservatives against abortion as a loss in the abortion “fight”. They would have not have felt like they needed to do anything drastic during the Bush administration as that was a very anti-abortion leading administration.

    I hope I’m wrong about this, but I don’t think I am. This blog is excellent by the way.

  13. Wendy T says:

    The abortion doctor death is just another man-caused disaster. There are no terrorists.

  14. Dan Allison says:

    More abortionists have been killed on the television series “Law and Order” alone than in reality.

  15. Greg Scott says:

    “Did you know that this is the first abortion related murder since 1998?”

    Actually, there have been about 10 million “abortion-related” murders in that time frame.

  16. Tim says:

    The link to “Abortion Violence and Disruption Statistics” is currently dead.

    I was able to find the referenced document at: http://www.prochoice.org/pubs_research/publications/downloads/about_abortion/violence_stats.pdf

    My suspicion is that, assuming that your link was good in the first place, they noticed the traffic they were getting from your blog and renamed the file. That’s all that was changed. (I think it would be fun/interesting to see if we could get them to do that again…)

  17. Steve Orris says:

    Wow. It’s amazing how easily the media controls our thoughts and emotions through manipulation of data or words. What is there agenda? Or maybe they don’t have an agenda. Maybe they just report what they are told to by people who don’t do as much research as you.