Statistical evidence has played a central role in our society’s response to Covid-19. We gather and publish data on so many aspects of this epidemic – the number of deaths, the number of cases, the number of tests, the number of intensive care units available, the recovery rates among hospital admissions, the number of clusters etc.
Statisticians are building and refining models based on the available data, and these models are then used to examine trends and inform policy decisions.
It is an example of “evidence-based medicine”, and it is the only sensible approach to dealing with this crisis. But, in the middle of all this laudable activity, our policymakers have announced a relaxation of what are already fairly lax rules in relation to abortion provision in our society.
They told us two years ago that the law here had to change because women self-medicating with abortion pills represented a real threat to these women’s health, and that GP visits before and after were essential safety measures. They have now decided that e.g. phone contact with GP’s will suffice. Either they were wrong then, or they are wrong now; they cannot be right on both occasions.
Evidence-based medicine was mentioned quite a lot in the abortion referendum in 2018, but the principle was honoured more in the breach than in the observance. I cannot recall a single citation, from that time, of statistical evidence that abortion provision here would benefit women’s mental or physical health. No one in government published an analysis of how many abortions here per year were likely to follow legalisation, or how many of these would be for the hard cases (serious foetal disability, rape etc) which figured so prominently in the debate. There was no shortage of abortion data available from other countries, but these data were not used.
I am not nit-picking here. Applying abortion data from other countries to Ireland, we can expect about 10,000 abortions per year here for the foreseeable future. That number of deaths totally dwarfs what we are likely to have here due to Covid-19.
Our doctors and nurses put their lives on the line every day in order to battle this virus, and our government is prepared to shut down large parts of the economy, and add billions to public debt, in order to keep the number of virus-related deaths as low as possible. While at the same time, and based on no evidence worthy of the name, some members of the medical and nursing professions continue to abort babies, day after day, and our government pays them generously for doing so.
We have lost our way as a society. The left hand does not appear to know what the right hand is doing.
JIM STACK MSc PhD is a retired Mathematics lecturer (Waterford Institute of Technology 1981-2008). For the last fifteen years, he has acted as statistical adviser/joint author on more than fifty peer-reviewed medical studies (e.g. listed on the website PubMed). He writes here in a personal capacity.