Why the Abortion Rate Is Declining

Chuck Donovan /

Over the most recent decade for which data are available (2001–2011), the overall U.S. abortion rate, calculated as the annual number of abortions per 1,000 women of childbearing age (15 to 44), has dropped, continuing a trend that first appeared in 1980. The decline has been steeper since 1990, with a brief plateau in the middle of the past decade. The 2011 rate for the nation is the lowest since 1973.

>>> The 2014 Index of Culture and Opportunity

Discussions of U.S. abortion trends must always be accompanied by caveats. The United States has an incomplete national abortion reporting system and what is published by government agencies is subject to wide variation regarding both content and time frames. The most comprehensive report, from the Guttmacher Institute, is not issued each year; is voluntary, like the national surveillance reports issued annually by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control; and is subject to omissions that, the authors acknowledge, make estimates necessary. Several U.S. jurisdictions with particularly permissive abortion laws, including California, Maryland, and New Hampshire, gather little or no official information.

Nonetheless, the overall direction of U.S. abortion practice is clear. A closer look at individual states that have consistent data confirms this trend. Between 2001 and 2011, the U.S. abortion rate, based on Guttmacher Institute data, declined by 19.1 percent from 20.9 abortions per 1,000 women ages 15 to 44, to 16.9 per 1,000, the lowest rate since 1973 when it was 16.3. Of the jurisdictions (including the District of Columbia) whose abortion facilities reported data to Guttmacher between 1999 and 2011, a total of 45 reported reductions in their abortion rates, while only five states— Connecticut, Maine, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia—reported increases. Overall, 33 states have abortion rates below the national average; 11 are consistently above the national norm, including California and New York.

ABORTIONS PER 1,000 WOMEN AGES 15–44

SR-culture-index-2014-abortion-747

Explanations for the long-term decline in U.S. abortions involve both impressionistic and medico-legal factors, each of which may be making a contribution. Michael New (2014) has shown that abortion laws like parental notification, Medicaid funding restrictions, and properly designed informed consent all reduce the incidence of abortion. At the same time, the Guttmacher Institute notes a recent increase in the use of long-lasting or fixed forms of family planning (e.g., intrauterine devices and injectables that have lower failure rates than alternative methods that are more subject to user error).

Perhaps more importantly, six of the 10 most recent Gallup polls (between May 2009 and May 2014) that examine the question have demonstrated that a majority of respondents self-identify as pro-life. That increase may be both cause and effect of parental decisions to respond to unexpected pregnancies by carrying the child to term. James Taranto of The Wall Street Journal has described this as the “Roe Effect”—the shift in the belief characteristics of a population where birth rates, while declining overall, show strong divergence between parents indisposed to abortion and parents for whom it is an acceptable response.

Nonetheless, the U.S. abortion rate continues to rank near the highest quartile among Western nations. Our laws are among the globe’s most permissive, and the continuation of a positive three-decade trend cannot be presumed.

This essay is from The Heritage Foundation’s 2014 Index of Culture and Opportunity.

How Cities and Counties Can Free Workers from Bullying Unions - Daily Signal

How Cities and Counties Can Free Workers from Bullying Unions

Chuck Donovan / James Sherk / Andrew Kloster /

Under the National Labor Relations Act, states may pass right-to-work (RTW) laws. In jurisdictions without these laws, unions can force workers to pay dues (although they cannot force them to actually join the union). Almost half of all states have passed worker-friendly RTW laws to protect workers from union coercion.

What about the employees in the 26 states with no right-to-work law? Are they out of luck? Not quite.

In a new Heritage paper we conclude that cities and counties in non-right-to-work states have the authority to pass their own RTW ordinances. Many local city councils could protect the freedom of their workers by passing RTW ordinances. This would also attract employers since many businesses will not consider locating in places without a RTW law.

Unfortunately, many local government officials have simply assumed they cannot pass RTW laws. Labor law is complex, and many local officials instinctively avoid rocking the boat. Federal law overrides or “preempts” conflicting state or local laws, so local officials are often unduly afraid of lawsuit. And Section 14(b) of the National Labor Relations Act expressly authorizes states and territories to pass RTW while saying nothing about local governments. So many local government leaders assume Congress has prevented them from passing Right-to-Work.

But a closer look at the Congressional record shows Congress passed § 14(b) simply to make it clear the National Labor Relations Act does not override RTW laws. Back then only states had passed RTW laws so Congress only expressly authorized them. But §14(b) does not mean Congress prohibited local RTW laws. It might mean Congress decided not to regulate them at all. And it seems the U.S. Supreme Court has taken this view:

“[A] section, which later became 14 (b), appeared in the House bill – a provision described in the House Report as making clear and unambiguous the purpose of Congress not to preempt the field. That purpose was restated by the House Conference Report in explaining 14(b). Senator Taft in the Senate debates stated that 14 (b) was to continue the policy of the Wagner Act and avoid federal interference with state laws in this field.”

In our federal system, courts interpreting federal law apply a presumption against preemption “unless that was the clear and manifest purpose of Congress.” And, in context, it would seem strange to interpret a provision meant to support state RTW laws as clearly prohibiting local ones.

Of course many cities and counties have no authority to regulate unions, no matter what federal law allows. Local governments have only the powers the state gives them. If a state does not permit its counties to pass labor regulations then they can’t pass right-to-work laws.

However, many non-RTW states—like Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Kentucky—have “charter” or “home rule” localities. Such cities and counties can pass any law the state legislature has not said they cannot, including right-to-work laws. Further, regular counties can usually vote to become charter counties.

If you’re a local activist and you think you can’t influence national politics, and you even think you can’t influence state politics, one thing you can do is read up on RTW. Your local government might be able to improve your community in this area of the law, and you might be able to help out.

Why ‘Holly Hobby Lobby’ Changed Her Mind About Owning Guns - Daily Signal

Why ‘Holly Hobby Lobby’ Changed Her Mind About Owning Guns

Chuck Donovan / James Sherk / Andrew Kloster / Kelsey Harkness /

Holly Fisher, a mom of three from West Virginia, never thought she would be a gun owner. But when her husband joined the military in 2006, that all changed.

Now, almost 10 years later, Fisher calls herself an avid supporter of the Second Amendment.

She has attracted some fierce critics for posting photos of herself holding legal firearms, including a pink handgun. She is unapologetic.

“My husband fought for those rights,” she told The Daily Signal.

>>>Tolerant Left? ‘Holly Hobby Lobby’ Vulgarly Attacked on Twitter

This summer, after using Twitter to showcase her pro-life position and support for the Supreme Court’s June 30 Hobby Lobby decision, Fisher became notorious for her outspoken conservative views, garnering almost 50,000 followers and the nickname “Holly Hobby Lobby.”

ATTENTION LIBERALS: do NOT look at this picture. Your head will most likely explode. #HobbyLobby #UniteBlue pic.twitter.com/uAIZji25vS

— Holly Fisher (@HollyRFisher) July 1, 2014

Her husband, David Fisher, a veteran of the war in Afghanistan, served with the Army’s 4-23 Infantry Division.

A native of Charleston, W. Va., Holly grew up  attending the same church as her future husband.

The couple got married in 2006, when David was in basic training. Later that year, he was deployed to Washington state. They packed up their lives to move across the country.

At first, Holly was “absolutely” against keeping a pistol in the house, she told The Daily Signal during an exclusive interview while in Washington last week to speak at the Bloggers Briefing at The Heritage Foundation.

“I thought we were going to accidently shoot ourselves,” she said.

But after living on the West Coast with no family or friends, Holly agreed to go to the range with her husband. She was 22.

Holly recalled:

I hesitated for several minutes before pulling the trigger the first time, but after I did, I learned more and more, and started realizing guns aren’t scary.

What changed her mind, she said, was learning how to safely store and use a gun.

“Education is key,” David said.

“A vehicle is a dangerous tool if you don’t know how to use it properly.”

>>> What ‘Holly Hobby Lobby’ Has Learned, and Her Next Move

Today, Holly and David own firearms ranging from handguns to semi-automatic rifles.

“My favorites are the AR-15 and the .40-calibre handgun,” Holly said.

David bought the couple a safe that requires their thumbprints to open.

“That’s the only way you can get into our guns,” Holly said. “With our thumbprints.”

Although some of her online detractors tell Holly it’s irresponsible to own guns when the Fishers have small children, she said the firearms gave her the peace of mind and protection she needed while her husband was serving in Afghanistan.

Jenna (8/10/11), Norah (8/14/13), and Ruston (9/15/09)

The Fisher kids: Jenna (8/10/11), Norah (8/14/13), and Ruston (9/15/09)

“I think it’s irresponsible to not have guns in your house when you have kids. because it is your job to protect your kids,” she said, adding:

I hope the need never arises for me to use my gun on an intruder or someone trying to harm my family, but I’m prepared, I’m ready and I know how to do it.

Taxpayers Shouldn’t Have to Support Leftist Foreign Policy Centers at Universities - Daily Signal

Taxpayers Shouldn’t Have to Support Leftist Foreign Policy Centers at Universities

Chuck Donovan / James Sherk / Andrew Kloster / Kelsey Harkness / Mike Gonzalez /

The foreign crises that have challenged the Obama Administration this summer are not the result of a happenstance outbreak of global chaos, but of bad policy choices. From the Middle East to our own border to the Eurasian steppe, President Obama’s “lead from behind” chickens—his wanton abandonment of America’s leadership role—have come home to roost.

Obama, alas, is not alone in spurning American influence and power, or traditional support for world actors like Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who identify with American values. Standing behind him is an entire philosophical and theoretical framework, born in academia,that guides his actions. In other words, as American Enterprise Institute’s Michael Rubin wrote in Commentary regarding one of the crises, Obama,

“embraced poli­cies widely supported by the academics and diplo­mats never mind that those policies completely mis­understand the realities of international relations. … The culture that has led Obama to fail completely in his assessment of Vladimir Putin isn’t going to end in 2016, when Obama exits the White House.”

Given that the academic problem is pervasive and that Rubin’s right that the culture will not end in 2017, we must look for systematic solutions. One modest but easy step is to cut off funding for Title VI of the Higher Education Act, which subsidizes area studies centers at universities throughout the country. This Heritage has decided to call for, and our rational can be found here.

>>> First Look: Mike Gonzalez’s ‘A Race for the Future: How Conservatives Can Break the Liberal Monopoly on Hispanic Americans’

Title VI is but one way that the tax payer subsidizes academic nuttiness. A much greater source for funding and support comes through the government-guaranteed loan program and through the accreditation system.

The area studies centers themselves are just one part of the problems at the academy, of course. The study of international affairs in general is steeped in an antipathy to American power that has become uber-influential with Obama, the president most beholden to the ideologies of the faculty lounge since Woodrow Wilson.

Sometimes this “blame America first” mentality displays such un-self-awareness that it can border on self-parody, as when Harvard lecturer Samantha Power in 2003 called for “instituting a policy of mea culpa” which would,

“enhance our credibility by showing that American decision-makers do not endorse the sins of their predecessors. When Willie Brandt went down on one knee in the Warsaw ghetto, his ges­ture was gratifying to World War II survivors.”

It’s less funny when you consider, however, that this is exactly the thinking that led six years later to Obama’s maiden “apology tour,” or that as recompense for her abject comparison of America’s actions to Nazi crimes, Power now represents our country as ambassador to the United Nations.

Cutting off funding to the 125 or so area studies at universities across the country won’t solve all this, to be sure, but the centers are themselves particularly egregious. For starters, they were set up in the 1950s and continue to be funded explicitly to meet “national needs.” For a while that worked, but consensus on what constituted national interest broke down in the 1960s.

Since then, the centers have progressively been taken over by what is known as “the left-over left.” The worst offenders have been the Middle East Centers, which in the 1970s came under the baleful influence of Columbia University professor Edward Said. As Martin Kramer wrote in Ivory Towers in 2002, Said “has crippled Middle Eastern studies to this day.”

Dissent from the reigning ideology was systematically stamped out. The discipline became systematically anti-Israel and so embarrassed about asking the right questions as to become blind to the threats we face as a society.

Together with Latin American centers and those from other areas, the centers became the entry points for ideologies inimical to our national interest, while failing to carry out the main task of academic work: truth discovery.

The cost of these centers to the U.S. tax payer is less than $100 million a year– almost a rounding error, we are aware. But federal funding has a powerful multiplier effect, as the universities then use government’s imprimatur to raise private money.

Ending Title VI will not fix the international fix we’re in at the moment. That will take time. But it’s an important first step.

State Supreme Court to Decide if Washington Will Allow Charter Schools - Daily Signal

State Supreme Court to Decide if Washington Will Allow Charter Schools

Chuck Donovan / James Sherk / Andrew Kloster / Kelsey Harkness / Mike Gonzalez / Mary Tillotson /

Washington state’s Supreme Court will determine whether charter schools will be allowed in the state. A hearing is scheduled in October.

The charter school law, approved by Washington state voters in 2012, allows for about 40 charter schools to open during the next five years. This fall, the private school First Place will be the first to serve students as a charter school. It already serves families in extreme poverty by offering  counseling, housing, advocacy and access to other resources.

If First Place can operate as a charter school, it could serve more students. A coalition of plaintiffs has sued the state of Washington, hoping to disallow schools such as First Place.

Seven other charter schools have been authorized and are expected to open in the fall 2015. All eight schools are geared toward underserved students who struggle in traditional schools, said Lisa Mcfarlane, spokesperson for Washington Charter Schools Association. The state’s charter law gives priority to schools serving at-risk students, she said.

In 2013, a coalition including the Washington Education Association, the League of Women Voters, El Centro de la Raza, the Washington Association of School Administrators and a few individuals sued the state in an attempt to overturn the charter-school law.

“We welcome that review,” Mcfarlane said, “because we’re confident the law will pass constitutional muster.” A trial court decision in Decemberupheld the substance of the law, knocking out one provision pertaining to construction funding, though none of the prospective charter school administrators had planned to use the construction funding.

Attorneys for the plaintiffs did not return calls for comment.
Read More on Watchdog.org.

Iowa Not Sure How Many People Got Extra Unemployment Benefits by Accident - Daily Signal

Iowa Not Sure How Many People Got Extra Unemployment Benefits by Accident

Chuck Donovan / James Sherk / Andrew Kloster / Kelsey Harkness / Mike Gonzalez / Mary Tillotson / Paul Brennan /

DES MOINES, Iowa — Bureaucrats at Iowa Workforce Development admit they don’t know how many people were paid extra unemployment benefits in March, nor can they say whether any of the overpayments were handed back to the state.

Exactly 85 people contacted the agency to report receiving extra unemployment benefits, so IWD officials claim the computer problem that caused it to issue those benefits resulted in overpaying exactly 85 people.

But testifying under oath before the Iowa State Senate Government Oversight Committee recently, IWD Unemployment Insurance Division Administrator Michael Wilkinson and Regional Operations Manager David Eklund reluctantly conceded the agency doesn’t actually know how many people received extra benefits.

A computer problem prevented IWD from updating its list of qualified unemployment benefit recipients for the week ending March 8, so the agency used the previous week’s list instead, even though that meant benefits might be paid to people who didn’t request them.

An email written by Eklund, and obtained by the committee through an open records request, laid out the agency’s solution to the overpayment problem: Wait to see if anyone voluntarily returned the payments. “We can gladly accept their offer to return the benefits, with a ‘thank you,’” Eklund wrote in the email dated March 13. But Eklund admitted he didn’t know how many of the 85 people who contacted IWD actually returned the extra benefit.

“We didn’t force anyone to pay it back,” Eklund said.

“If an individual honestly asked me, ‘Do I have to pay this back,’ I was equally honest and told them they were not required,” Eklund explained.

“My fear, in essence, was that we would be penalizing the honest and rewarding the dishonest who did not come forward,” Eklund told the committee. “And to my own personal compass of fairness, that did not seem right.”

“I don’t even know what to think of what he said,” Sen. Janet Petersen, D-Des Moines, said. “I was surprised by that. Clearly it’s not the best way to administer the unemployment program.” Still, Wilkinson assured the committee it was legal. “The actions that we took were within the Iowa code, precedents and administrative rules,” Wilkinson said.

Petersen said the committee will to press IWD to provide more information. “Basically what we’ve found out today is that we don’t know how many people received an overpayment. And I believe IWD is trying to keep it that way.”

Read more at Watchdog.org.

5 Charts That Explain Millennial Voters - Daily Signal

5 Charts That Explain Millennial Voters

Chuck Donovan / James Sherk / Andrew Kloster / Kelsey Harkness / Mike Gonzalez / Mary Tillotson / Paul Brennan / Melissa Quinn /

The Cold War ended long ago, and according to one survey, it’s time for politicians to leave Cold War-era terms such as “big government,” “socialism” and “capitalism” behind. The reason: Such words mean little to the millennial generation, who came of age during the Great Recession.

The 18- to 29-year-old demographic played a crucial role in the 2008 and 2012 elections. These millennials were instrumental in electing Barack Obama to the presidency not once, but twice. In 2008, Obama won 66 percent of voting millennials; in 2012, he captured 67 percent.

Emily Ekins, polling director for Reason Foundation, says that had those ages 18 to 29 not voted in 2012, Republican nominee Mitt Romney would be in the White House.

Polling firms, marketers and politicians continue to have put millennials under the microscope to determine their political leanings and what drives them to the polls.

A recent survey by Reason-Rupe found that many millennials don’t understand the words “big government,” “socialism” and “capitalism” — language that emerged after World War II and during the Cold War. Generation Y, Ekins says, simply doesn’t extract much meaning from such terms.

Ekins discussed the importance to communicators of the findings of Reason-Rupe’s Spring 2014 Millennial Survey during last week’s Bloggers Briefing  at The Heritage Foundation.

Check out some key results of the poll in the five charts below:

1. Millennials say “capitalism” is a better economic system than “socialism” by only a small margin. However, when asked if they believe a free market economy is better than a government-managed one, the margin widens substantially.

(Chart: Reason-Rupe 2014 Millennial Survey)

(Chart: Reason-Rupe Spring 2014 Millennial Survey)

2. Millennials don’t quite know what “socialism” means.

Socialism Definition-1

3. Millennials say they prefer a “larger government” that provides more services. They don’t tend to think of “big government” leading to higher taxes and heavier regulation. Once the possibility of higher taxes to support a larger government is mentioned, though, millennials’ support shifts. 

(Chart: Reason-Rupe 2014 Millennial Survey)

(Chart: Reason-Rupe Spring 2014 Millennial Survey)

4. Under the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, the cost of health insurance increases for young people to subsidize the cost of health insurance for the elderly and less affluent. Millennials covered under their parents’ plans — they can remain so until 26 under Obamacare — support others helping pay to insure the uninsured. However, those paying for their own plans disagree.

Healthcare Chart

(Chart: Reason-Rupe Spring 2014 Millennial Survey)

5. Millennials are fiscal centrists and social liberals, Ekins says. On fiscal issues, millennials see themselves as closer to Republicans such as New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie than to President Obama, and are centrists. However, millennials rate themselves closer to liberal Democrats such as Obama on social issues.

(Chart: Reason-Rupe 2014 Millennial Survey)

(Chart: Reason-Rupe Spring 2014 Millennial Survey)

Rep. Pete King: Islamic State Does Plan on Attacking U.S. - Daily Signal

Rep. Pete King: Islamic State Does Plan on Attacking U.S.

Chuck Donovan / James Sherk / Andrew Kloster / Kelsey Harkness / Mike Gonzalez / Mary Tillotson / Paul Brennan / Melissa Quinn / Melissa Quinn /

During an appearance on CBS’ “Face the Nation,” Rep. Pete King, R-N.Y., reminded viewers al-Qaeda didn’t need an “excuse” to attack the United States on Sept. 11, 2001 and said the Islamic State wouldn’t need one either.

“They will attack us whenever they can,” he said.

King criticized President Obama for waiting to act against the Islamic State and said he strongly believes the terrorist group plans on attacking the United States.

Since the Islamic State began making advancements in Iraq, the president has ordered a number of airstrikes against the terrorist group. Many wonder if the United States will put combat troops back on the group in Iraq, though President Obama has adamantly been opposed.

Also appearing on “Face the Nation,” Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said there should be “additional U.S. troops” assisting in the fight against the Islamic State, but said they should not be involved in combat.

McCain also warned viewers of the severity of the terrorist group.

This is a direct threat to the United States of America,” he said. “It may be one of the biggest we’ve ever faced.”

Rep. Mike Rogers: ‘Hundreds’ of Americans Connected to Islamic State - Daily Signal

Rep. Mike Rogers: ‘Hundreds’ of Americans Connected to Islamic State

Chuck Donovan / James Sherk / Andrew Kloster / Kelsey Harkness / Mike Gonzalez / Mary Tillotson / Paul Brennan / Melissa Quinn / Melissa Quinn / Melissa Quinn /

One of the concerns other countries have regarding the Islamic State is citizens who have trained with the terrorist group using their passports to return home and carry out an attack. On “Fox News Sunday”, Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Mich., told host Chris Wallace there are “hundreds” of Americans connected to the Islamic State.

“The problem is there is no sure number,” Rogers, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said. “It’s in the hundreds that we believe have at least [at] one time traveled and participated and trained with them.”

 

Report: These Five States Have Highest Liability Per Taxpayer - Daily Signal

Report: These Five States Have Highest Liability Per Taxpayer

Chuck Donovan / James Sherk / Andrew Kloster / Kelsey Harkness / Mike Gonzalez / Mary Tillotson / Paul Brennan / Melissa Quinn / Melissa Quinn / Melissa Quinn / Josh Siegel /

Taxpayers in Alaska who enjoy keeping their money will be happy to see a new report that claims the country’s 49th state is best able to fund its obligations.

Residents of Connecticut may not feel as good.

The Truth in Accounting report ranks the states by “taxpayer burden,” a measure that represents the amount each taxpayer would have to pay his or her state’s treasury to fill its financial hole.

Truth in Accounting, a Chicago-based nonprofit, determined that the states with the highest taxpayer burden — deemed “Sinkhole States” — are, in descending order, Connecticut, Illinois, New Jersey, Massachusetts and Hawaii.

The "Sinkhole States"

The “Sinkhole States”

The states with the largest “taxpayer surplus” — called “Sunshine States” based on having assets available to pay their bills — are, from the top:  Alaska, North Dakota, Wyoming, Utah and South Dakota.

The "Sunshine States"

The “Sunshine States”

Taxpayer burden is calculated by determining each taxpayer’s share of state debt after setting aside capital-related debt and assets.  Remaining debt is primarily unpaid pension and retirement health promises.

In its fifth annual report, released this month, Truth in Accounting says states that have unfunded pension liabilities put a burden on future taxpayers, even though “they will not receive any services” from the retired employees who earn those pensions.

States with taxpayer surplus, on the other hand, fund pension costs during the year employees earn the benefits, and the money is set aside for that year.

Connecticut, which the report considers to be in the worst financial shape, has an overall budget shortfall of $61.4 billion, which breaks down to $48,100 per taxpayer.

Truth in Accounting reports that most of Connecticut’s retirement benefits have been promised but not funded.

A Connecticut law requires the legislature to pass a balanced budget. This likely explains why the state chose not to report its entire retirement benefit liability. The report says:

One of the reasons Connecticut is in this precarious financial position is state officials use antiquated budgeting and accounting rules to report Connecticut’s financial condition. Since employee retirement benefits are not immediately payable in cash, the related compensation costs have been ignored when calculating balanced budgets.

Alaska, reported to be in the best financial shape, has an overall budget surplus of $13.5 billion, which breaks down to $46,900 per taxpayer. The report says Alaska has enough money to pay state employees’ retirement benefits and other outstanding bills:

Alaska is in good financial shape because the legislators and governors have only promised citizens and employees what they can afford to deliver.

See how your fared state by reading the Truth in Accounting report.

The worst performing states

The worst performing states