The Abortion Crisis Hidden in Plain Sight

By Stacie Murphy, Policy Director

Well, here’s an appalling little item that’s definitely going to get lost in the week’s barrage of insane news stories:

I’m pretty convinced that the United States has a self-induced abortion crisis right now based on the volume of search inquiries. I was blown away by how frequently people are searching for ways to do abortions themselves now. These searches are concentrated in parts of the country where it’s hard to get an abortion and they rose substantially when it became harder to get an abortion. They’re also, I calculate, missing pregnancies in these states that aren’t showing up in either abortion or birth rates.

That’s pretty disturbing and I think isn’t really being talked about. But I think, based on the data, it’s clearly going on.

That’s a quote from author Seth Stephens-Davidowitz, being interviewed at Vox.com about his new book, Everybody Lies: Big Data, New Data, and What the Internet Can Tell Us about Who We Really Are.

Stephens-Davidowitz was a PhD candidate at Harvard when he started using Google Trends to analyze, well, all sorts of things, really. He argues that the anonymous data that Google collects about what people are searching for are a much better indicator of what people are really, truly thinking than traditional opinion polls.

And when the interviewer asks him for his most surprising finding, he replies with the statement above.

The thing is, it’s not that surprising if you’ve been paying attention. Women’s health advocates have been warning for years now that the wave of abortion restrictions across the United States would lead to precisely this outcome. They’ve been sharing the stories they’ve heard and urging the rest of us to take notice. There are even groups that, acknowledging the reality that desperate women take desperate measures, are trying to help make do-it-yourself-abortions safer for the women who don’t feel they have any other option.

Stephens-Davidowitz didn’t discover this problem, but he has provided some independent evidence for something a lot of us already knew was happening.

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