#LetsMisinterpretDataTogether: Gay Marriage Will Cause 900,000 Abortions

First Gay Wedding Show In Paris

We look at the claim that same-sex marriage will result in 900,000 abortions. Hold on, 900,000? Really? REALLY?!?



(From time to time, we like to look at data and wonder “what if this was completely misinterpreted by someone, who would then use their incorrect analysis to create an argument equally as idiotic?” Luckily this time, someone did it for us! THIS REALLY IS THAT ARGUMENT. In this edition we look at a Supreme Court brief that 100 conservatives and academic lawyers filed arguing that gay marriage will cause 900,000 abortions in the next 30 years! Yup, that is a statistic that just happened… So instead of the usual misinterpretation of data, let’s look at how they made their argument.)



So the crux of the “data interpretation” comes in Section II of the brief in which they explain that “redefining marriage in genderless rather than gendered terms would undermine those norms and thereby create enormous social costs and risks.”   They state those costs by saying that it “would lead to an additional nearly 600,000 children born into nonmarital parenting situations, and nearly 900,000 more children aborted.”


That is a lofty claim! So what’s the reasoning behind it?


Well, it goes something like this…


Same-sex marriage undermines “traditional” marriage, which would lead to lower marriage rates. This would leads to more abortions, because unmarried women get more abortions than married women. According to the law clerk Gene Schaerr – who is leading this argument against gay marriage – claims that this line of reasoning creates “a short and simple causal chain.”


And by causal we can only assume that he means no connection at all, because that is the only way any of this would make any sense.


That line of logic is right up there with “Tara Reid really makes ‘The Big Lebowski’ a great film!”


Tara Reid in Big Lebowski


Or “you know what this chocolate chip cookie is missing, raisins!”


Oatmeal Cookie


Frankly that line of logic doesn’t make any sense for a multitude of reasons!


But you know what, let’s just play along. For a second let’s just ignore numerous academic studies of how same-sex marriage does not affect “traditional” marriage like this one. Or this one. Or even this one! So for a moment, let’s live in this bubble and look how this is actually “a short and simple causal chain.”


If we were to diagram the chain out, it would look something like this:


 Same-Sex Marriage => Lower “Traditional” Marriage Rates => More Abortions   


Now Causation is the idea that says that one variable brings another into existence or fluctuates it directly. Example of causation would be, if you exercise more your body burns more calories. It’s a simple relationship in which when you affect one variable, it undoubtedly affects the other. In most things in life – especially when dealing with the social sciences – causation is EXTREMELY RARE! There are usually just too many variables between two points that would make the relationship causal.


Causation: The More You Exercise => The More Your Body Burn Calories


On the other hand, there is correlation. It’s the idea that two variables increase or decrease in parallel. The famous example of this would be the relationship between yellow cars and reported accidents. It’s been reported before that yellow cars have been in less accidents, thus concluding that driving a yellow car gives you less of a chance at getting into an accident.


Correlation: Driving a Yellow Car => Bullshit Variable(s) => The Decrease Number in Accidents


This is completely false as a causal statement! Because you’re ignoring the other connections between the two variables (ie a third variable), such as whether the people who drive yellow cars are school bus drivers or have a fetish for stop signs. That middle variable could be ANYTHING.


Stop Sign

“I got a thing for octagons. DON’T YOU DARE JUDGE ME!!!”



In fact these relationships are known as spurious correlations. Or as most people know them as, statistical bullshit. Actually statistically you can make spurious relationships out of anything. Like how per capita consumption of cheese in the US correlates with number of people who died by becoming tangled in their bedsheets or how people who drowned after falling out of a fishing boat correlates with the marriage rate in Kentucky.


Now if you think the last two relationships were bullshit, you wouldn’t be wrong. Because even with high correlation rates, that doesn’t mean these relationships are causal. They are just way too many variables between the two specific examples that you want to create a relationship with. The same goes when talking about same-sex marriage and its link with an increase in abortions.


Let’s look at that relationship one more time.


Same-Sex Marriage => Lower “Traditional” Marriage Rates => More Abortions  


On the basis of their OWN logic, the relationship between same sex marriage and abortions is spurious right off the bat! By having the traditional marriage rates sandwiched in there like some unholy statistical threesome, this relationship can no longer be causal. See you can call me old fashioned, but I believe the Lord intended causation to be only between two variables that directly affect each other!


Correlation Relationship

“That ‘X’ should repent its sins!”



The crazy part of all this though, is that the authors of the Supreme Court brief clearly knew that their statistical findings were bullshit! In an interview with the Washington Post, Schaerr even admitted that the chain doesn’t prove causality by saying, “the brief doesn’t even attempt to say conclusively that this reduction in marriage rates has been the result of adopting same-sex marriage.”




I just spent a good 1,000 words explaining why this relationship is COMPLETE BULLSHIT when you already knew??? Then why file the brief in the first place? This isn’t a church raffle! It’s not like the more briefs you file the more chances you have of swinging the Supreme Court to your position. If that was the case, Ms. Gladstone over here would be freaking Atticus Finch!


Raffle Winner


Well… about that.


So in 2013 when California’s Proposition 8 – a 2008 ballot proposition that banned same-sex marriages – went in front of the Supreme Court, the Justices asked a simple question; what would the impact of same-sex marriage be on traditional marriage? In which a lawyer arguing in favor of the ban replied, “your Honor, I just don’t know.”


As we all know, Prop 8 was deemed by the Supreme Court to be unconstitutional, making – what many legal scholars feel – the first real win for same-sex marriages in the US.


In the Supreme Court hearings yesterday however, people who follow SCOTUS say the claim of same-sex marriages causing 900,000 abortions fills a void that those who argue against same-sex marriage never had. An argument that simply just isn’t an emotional response, but one that is backed by data.


But that’s the thing.


The statement above isn’t data, it’s bullshit!


In fact tying same-sex marriage to this absurd number of abortions is no different from that data set earlier about people who drowned after falling out of a fishing boat and marriage rate in Kentucky! In fact if you were to compare the two relationships, the greatest threat to the “sanctity” marriage isn’t same-sex marriage.


It’s people falling out of fishing boats!


People Falling Out of a Fishing Boat

“Destroying the sanctity of marriage!”




(Image Credits: Google Images)


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