WAPO Fact Checker Debunks ‘1 In 3 Women Have Abortions’ Stat

Rachel Stoltzfoos | Staff Reporter

The claim from pro-choice activists that one in three women have an abortion is bogus, according to a Washington Post fact check published Tuesday.

The fact check was prompted by the use of the statistic in a letter from pro-choice activists ahead of the first presidential debate urging the moderator to bring up abortion. “One in three women in this country has had an abortion,” the letter states, reiterating a common line for pro-choice activists.

But the statistic is based on 2008 abortion rates used by the Guttmacher Institute to project that 30 percent of women will have an abortion by the time they’re 45 — if those rates stayed constant. It does not account for the fact that the rate may have changed, and misleadingly states that women “have had” rather than “will have” an abortion by the time they’re 45.

“This is an inaccurate reference to research relying on data nearly a decade old,” Michelle Ye Hee Lee wrote in the fact check, adding: “Until the study of the 2014 data is complete, we will not know whether this rate has remained constant. … In this case, the statistic was simplified way too much — that one in three women (with no age specification) have had (not ‘will have by age 45’) an abortion. This statistic is unsupported by facts and earns Four Pinocchios.”

This is coming from the same fact checker who gave Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina’s “secretary to CEO” story a “mostly false” rating during the primaries, when it was clearly true. The story ended up being one of WaPo’s most-read fact checks, drawing criticism from readers and colleagues alike that prompted an editor’s note at the bottom of the piece attempting to defend the rating. The “whopper” rating applied to a claim from the pro-choice movement is particularly noteworthy given this fact checker’s record.

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