Dana Milbank on Abortion: Dishonest or Dim?

Flickr Creative Commons / Center for American Progress Action Fund
Flickr Creative Commons / Center for American Progress Action Fund

Some call Dana Milbank the most dishonest columnist in Washington. Others might argue he’s just the ideologically dimmest.

Milbank weighed in recently on the reason abortions have been on the decline in recent years. He concludes that it is not because of the hundreds of pro-life law passed in the states, the laws that are so flummoxing abortion advocates, but rather because of increased use of contraceptives.

He says conservatives are being illogical, because the thing that would most achieve their goal in reducing abortions — contraceptives — is the thing that GOP primary voters would most oppose. He says imposing a 20-week abortion ban would effect no more than 1.5 percent of abortions.

At National Review’s Corner blog, Professor Michael New of the University of Michigan takes apart Milbank’s claims. He says Milbank offered only two pieces of evidence to prove his point, the comment of a pro-abortion journalist named Will Saletan of Slate, and “a Guttmacher Institute study of the three-year period between 2008 and 2011 says they do.” He also appears to deliberately misquote pro-life activist Charmaine Yoest, president of Americans United for Life.

New points out: “Contraceptive use has been rising since the 1960s, but increased use of contraceptives did not reduce the incidence of abortions in the 1970s or the 1980s.”

New argues the key figure to examine is the unintended pregnancy rate, something that widespread contraceptive use should have taken care of. He shows that increased use of contraceptives has coincided with an increased rate of “unintended pregnancies.”

New asks Milbank, “If contraceptives are effective, and contraceptive use has gone up, why has the unintended-pregnancy rate actually increased since the 1990s?”

New says this is because fewer women are choosing abortion. He cites a Guttmacher study from 1994 wherein “54 percent of unintended pregnancies ended in abortion. By 2008, that number had fallen to 40 percent.” New says this has to do with the educational effort of the pro-life movement, and the spread of pro-life pregnancy resource centers.

Where Will Saletan told his friend Milbank “the data shows that there is no reliable correlation between the degrees of restrictions in a state and the abortion rate,” New points out: “…study after study has shown otherwise, affirming the effectiveness of restrictions on public funding of abortions and pro-life parental-involvement laws” and that “even Guttmacher acknowledges this.” Indeed, if these restrictive laws were so ineffective, one wonders why the abortion lobby works so hard to stop them?

Milbank also says it’s the Democrats who have been leading the charge to make contraceptives more readily available. He does not seem to be aware that it has been Republicans who have been making proposals along those lines.  Examples include presidential hopeful Bobby Jindal, Senator Cory Gardner of Colorado, Congresswoman Barbara Comstock of Virginia, among others. It’s Democratic pressure groups stepping up to oppose this, including major Democratic funder Planner Parenthood.

Milbank caused a kerfuffle by misquoting Charmaine Yoest about the cause of abortion’s decline. She took to Twitter to explain his dishonesty. In fact, Mollie Hemingway has a cottage industry in tracking Milbank’s “dishonesty” in presenting the arguments of his ideological opponents. She says, “Friends Don’t Let Friends Read Milbank.”

 Follow Austin Ruse on Twitter @austinruse