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LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Institute stands by abortion data

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Janice Shaw Crouse deems reliable the Guttmacher Institute's U.S. abortion data -- which does not rely solely on official government reports -- but then proceeds to criticize our work in other countries on the exact same grounds ("Planned Parenthood think tank inflates abortion numbers," Web, Dec. 27).

In the United States, abortion-incidence data compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is known to be incomplete. To provide more accurate statistics, Guttmacher has developed a peer-reviewed methodology that yields an estimate regarded as reliable by those on all sides of the abortion debate. The article praises it as "good data."

Guttmacher has likewise developed a sophisticated, peer-reviewed methodology to estimate abortion incidence in developing countries, where abortion is often highly restricted or banned altogether, and official statistics are either incomplete or nonexistent. However, Ms. Crouse -- after endorsing our approach for the United States -- professes shock that Guttmacher would not take other countries' incomplete official data (in this case, Mexico's) at face value. This may stem from the fact that she is echoing recent attempts to raise doubts about Guttmacher's methodology, which we debunked comprehensively last July and in December.

While Mexico City decriminalized abortion in 2007, the procedure is still banned in the rest of the country (where 93 percent of reproductive-age women live). Further, official abortion records even for Mexico City are known to miss significant numbers of abortions, including those that take place in private facilities or clandestinely. Official statistics also don't include clandestine abortions in the rest of the country.

Lastly, the article refers to Guttmacher as "Planned Parenthood's think tank." We are a fully independent organization.

We at Guttmacher apply rigorous standards of research to all of our work, whether domestic or international. We reject these criticisms and stand by the validity of our methodology.

CORY L. RICHARDS

Executive vice president, vice president for Public Policy

Guttmacher Institute

Washington

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