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Bad Chart Thursday: Anti-Abortion “Logic” in One Terrible Chart

You know, there are a few things the anti-abortion crowd is really good at–holding down the shift key when they type; consistently blurring the line between fact and fiction (most fundamentally in ascribing the characteristics of a baby to a fetus); and undermining their pro-life messaging at every turn with death threats (sometimes carried out), gory images of aborted fetuses, and a complete disregard for the lives of women and their existing children.

But with all these talents and skills, anti-abortion activists are decidedly not good at making charts.

Last year, we looked at the abortion death pie chart, which is so asinine, I never thought it could be topped.

I thought wrong.

In the midst of the recent attempt to make Planned Parenthood look like it was selling baby parts, an attempt that relies almost entirely on the audience’s ignorance of biology, Michael Cantrell, of Young Conservatives, decided to share this infographic with the promise that “It’ll truly break your heart.” And in a way, he’s right. If you value math, logic, language, and reality, this infographic will very likely break your heart and possibly your hope for the future of humanity.

Killers in World History chart

This is one of the simplest charts ever, with nice round numbers to work with, yet two out of three bars do not line up with the numbers they show. It would be easy to overlook the unlabeled, unevenly spaced axis if at the very least, the bars lined up with it correctly, but no.

The bar for abortions is actually closer on the axis to the accurate number of abortions since 1973, which is about 10 million fewer than the 61 million listed here, according to CDC abortion surveillance reports.

By comparing completely unrelated things–an event, a person, and a medical procedure–under the umbrella “killers,” the chart shows the usual anti-abortion lack of concern for what words mean. And including U.S. abortions as somehow significant in world history is an ethnocentrism that parallels the self-centered viewpoint of the anti-abortion movement, whose advocates insist that their views about pregnancy and sex, views that rely on figments of their imagination (imaginary babies, imaginary gods, misogynistic beliefs about women, etc.), should dictate what real women do with their bodies.

The “substance” of the chart is to depict one of the more offensive, often antisemitic anti-abortion arguments, comparing abortion to genocide, usually in reference to the holocaust. Nothing shows respect for life like callously exploiting the pain, torture, and deaths of millions of actual people–people with experiences, memories, consciousness, feelings, and relationships.

But even among those who consider zygotes, embryos, fetuses–and presumably tumors–to be people, this chart is flawed because it does not include miscarriages, which account for at least as many deaths of imaginary babies as abortions do (and probably many, many more considering how many miscarriages occur without women even realizing they are pregnant).

To be fair, though, the focus is clearly intended to be on willful acts, to portray abortion as murder, in which case miscarriage is more along the lines of manslaughter, perhaps. It would be more of an issue if the anti-abortion activists were genuinely motivated by defending the life in the womb, as they claim. I mean, it’s not like it matters to an embryo or a fetus whether it’s aborted or miscarried, even if it were physically possible for anything to matter to an embryo or a fetus. So if these activists are truly speaking for the unborn, as they claim, they are doing a piss poor job of it. Perhaps they should admit what this chart makes abundantly clear: they don’t speak for or even care about anyone–genocide victims or their loved ones, zygotes, embryos, fetuses, women, or children–as much as they care about imposing their views on others.

So in a way, I guess the chart is kind of effective, just not quite in the way it was intended.

Melanie Mallon

Melanie is a freelance editor and writer living in a small town outside Minneapolis with her husband, two kids, dog, and two cats. When not making fun of bad charts or running the Uncensorship Project, she spends her time wrangling commas, making colon jokes, and putting out random dumpster fires. You can find her on Twitter as @MelMall, on Facebook, and on Instagram.

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  1. Plus, they missed one of all.

    God ~100 Billion, because he had the power to keep every single human who ever lived from dying.

    You know, if you believe in that sort of thing.

      1. Not to mention that just about two thirds of successful fertilizations end in spontaneous abortion, so the actual number is closer to 300 billion. And most of those were babies! Precious, innocent, several-celled babies, that not even their mothers knew existed. God’s a dick.

  2. One of the things that bothers me most about the anti-abortion crowd is how their perception of history is almost completely divorced from reality. It goes something like the following:

    “Prior to 1973 abortion was illegal. So before Roe v. Wade didn’t need or even *want* abortions. If we reverse the process and outlaw abortion, then women will once again be free from need or desire for the procedure.”

    Furthermore, as a kind of subarticle 1a to the whole thing above:

    “Because Roe v. Wade caused women to want to abort their precious babies, people have become worse parents and mothers no longer properly love their children. Outlawing abortion will restore the ancient natural entity, the nuclear family, creating parents who are more loving and nurturing.”

    This entirely goes against the grain of history, of course. Societies have only started treating children humanely in the past couple centuries – there hasn’t really been much of a ‘natural’ maternal/paternal instinct, either. Throughout history, the “normal family” has almost never included a working male, domestic female and their children. Women have regulated their own childbearing as much as has been in their power throughout history.

  3. Whilst I agree with the premise of the article, I think its unfair to, within the framework of the anti-abortionist argument, compare miscarriage to manslaughter.

    The argument against abortion is that one is consciously denying an embryo / foetus the chance for life, which they consider murder.
    Miscarriages on the other hand are consequences of, usually, natural causes. In most cases its not the potential mother’s fault.

    The only time it becomes blurred is when the woman suffers a miscarriage due to physical trauma, e.g. falling down the stairs / being attacked by someone, or due to psychological or mental trauma, e.g. stress and other conditions. Then, within the framework of the anti-abortionist argument, there is an argument for manslaughter … ish. Unless that is what you were referring to anyway.

    Personally, I don’t agree with abortion for convenience purposes as it is (in my eyes) denying the right to life, however when the mother is in danger due to the foetus, there’s no question … abort abort abort.
    However, I would never impose my views on anyone and if I was going to, this certainly would not be the platform to do so.

    Also …. if they REALLY wanted to be clever, they could have increased the 61m by all the potential children that these aborted foetus’s could have had in that time. They really missed a trick there!

    1. I was actually thinking of the miscarriages caused by external factors and behaviors–the two miscarriages I’ve had, both while on birth control, were quite likely due to some combination of the pill and other prescription medications I take (one of them a controlled substance). BUT I agree that not all miscarriages are caused by external factors. From what I’ve read, the bulk happen because of some kind of problem with the embryo. I did hedge this comment “along the lines of manslaughter, probably.”

      I don’t know who these women are who are having abortions for convenience. I see it as nothing more than a medical procedure, but even I don’t see it as convenient. It costs several hundred dollars and requires time away from work and existing children, if any, plus significant travel time for many women. There’s nothing convenient about it.

  4. Problem is, how do you define “convenience” exactly. I mean, I know that the right, from which the vast majority of so called pro-life people derive, thinks that these things are “conveniences”:

    1. Not being able to find a job.
    2. Not having health care.
    3. Getting injured and being unable to work.
    4. Having to take care of a kid who has physical, or mental, or both, difficulties, which will never allow them a normal life.
    5. Having to take care of unexpected emergencies, or family members.
    6. Being in a car accident (even if its not your fault).
    7. Being in “any” sort of accident, even if not your fault.
    8. Dying in one of their wars.
    9. Mental illness.
    10. Escaping an abusing relationship, or otherwise ending up as a single parent.
    11… and on, and on.

    All of these things are, to them, “things people somehow have the choice to avoid, or escape”. Having to scrape up, even while national and state assistance programs are being slashed, money to a) raise a kid, b) have someone watch the kid, while at work, c) getting the kid medical aid, or d) actually getting an education, or job, which might pay for any of these things, while you have a kid… are also “conveniences”.

    Yeah.. Somehow its damned inconvenient to have a kid, which you are not ready for, when you have shitty job, and incomplete education, and the people that don’t want you to do the “convenient” thing tell you, “F you”, when you ask, “Ok, but.. if I have it, how am I supposed to take care of him/her?”

    No.. Desperation and a lack of choices are what lead to people making such choices on a whim. Most women, if any, do not do it on a whim, in spite of the BS rhetoric out there. Very few do so for “mere” convenience, and, ironically, its is almost certainly the ones with a butt load of money, who could pay for an illegal one, if legal ones where actually banned, who would be doing this. Poor people, think long and hard about such things, and often, keep the kid, even when it would have been in their best financial interest to not do so.

    As for adoptions… There are just not enough people doing that, to even make a dent, and the horror stories, for so many, who end up in foster homes, or group homes, etc., instead, are often only less terrible than 100 years ago **purely** because you can no longer simply buy the kid, then drop them in a factory, or worse, like was once done. But, poor education, poor discipline, poor supervision, corrupt officials (and foster parents), little or not provisions for listening the kids, if/when one runs away from those conditions, and even poorer prospects, once they are old enough to be kicked out on their own.

    Its like lamenting that you don’t want to see puppies being euthanized, when the only alternative available is life time incarceration in wire cages, for half of them. Even if I accepted the supposed “ethical” claim about it being a mere “convenience”, the lack of ethics in demanding that someone be forced to spend 18 years failing to raise them, on inadequate pay, with inadequate state support, and throwing any prospect of a better life for children they may latter want away with it, or, instead, shoving thousands more children into a badly broken, and often dangerous adoption/foster care system…

    Well, its sure as hell wouldn’t be “convenient” for the kids involved…

    The real world is too messy for simplistic, black and white, answers – it requires consideration of consequences, for all choices. Those apposed to abortion, often either ignore, deny, discount, or simply do not comprehend the scope of, the consequences of trying to ban it. (Even without adding in the very real threat of jail time, followed by the current trend of more, harsher jail time, when people fail to be cowed and conform, which we see today, due to people doing it anyway, just like they did the last time it was illegal.)

    There seems to be some very delusional idea that we have solved, or can easily solve all of the still existing problems, and all the brand new ones that have arisen, since it was last illegal, so making it illegal again will magically result in all of the problems vanishing along with it (kind of like, immigration, and the similarly delusional idea that deporting 11 million people will magically allow us to instantly fix the problems with the immigration system. Cute.. but, history, especially the recent history of this countries politics, strongly suggest that “eliminating the problem”, in either case, will just lead to everyone promptly ignoring all the other problems, and declaring everything, “Fixed and solved. Mission accomplished!”).

    I don’t think those who desire the ban the most, or claim its a moral and ethical problem, which must be fixed, have, either ethics, or morals, when it comes to what to do **after**.

    1. To be honest, with a lot of theocrats, the abusive relationship is something they’re totally on board with. They won’t call it an abusive relationship, but they’ll just see it as the natural position with the women and children subservient to a man.

      Of course, they’ll never consider that in the time the Bible was written, large extended (and polygynous, of course) families were the norm; neolocal residence is a relatively new concept.

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