Comparing Apples, Oranges and Abortion Pills

In his relentless attempt at winning the most obnoxious blogger of the year award, Steve Verdon over at OTB shall we we say “disrespectfully disagrees” with Michelle Malkin about the abortion pill, RU-486.

Calling Michelle Malkin on Her Nonsense

A few days ago Michelle Malkin had a post noting what a horribly horribly dangerous drug RU-486 is. Bill Ardolino called her on that one and pointed out that the actually numbers imply that Michelle is pushing crap statistics for ideological reasons.

So, let’s get this straight: assuming accurate data (admittedly a big assumption), a total of ten women (reported) have died, presumably related to a fatal interaction with the drug, in 16 years of international use. Of those ten, five occurred in the United States, where 460,000 women have taken the drug safely since its approval, five years ago.

That equals a mortality rate of 0.0000108, meaning that 1 out of every 92,000 people that took the drug have died.

Bill compared it among other things to penicillin,

Yeah, so can penicillin, at a greater mortality rate than RU-486:

The risk of penicillin fatal allergy is about 1 in 75,000.

Anytime I hear of a story about public health scares, I think of the great Alar hoax, where million of people quit buying apples because Meryl Streep went before Congress and said we were poisoning our children with Alar sprayed on apples. If you are too young to remember it, this was the talk of the country for about 6 months. 60 Minutes did a hit piece story on it and it was in every magazine and newspaper. Thousands of apple growers lost their farms because you couldn’t give an apple away. And it turned out Alar was indeed bad for you… If you drank a 55 gallon drum of it, then you might get cancer or something. The whole thing was a hoax.

So when I hear a public heath statistic I wonder, “How many apples is that?”

The United States produces a little over 200 million cartons of apples per year. There are roughly 90 apples per case, so that’s about 18 billion apples. If one out of 92,000 apples killed the person who ate it, that would be 195,652 dead people per year or 536 people PER DAY.

Now stop and consider if 536 people died every day from eating apples. Congress would be holding hearings, the news networks would be covering the story 24/7 and survivors of the dead apple eaters would be lynching former apple growers.

The point is obvious. Killing one 1 of 92,000 users of your product is nothing to be proud of. While that mortality rate might be acceptable in medicine, that mortality rate on another product would get it banned.

So why don’t we ban Amoxicillin? Simply because it saves many times more lives than it costs. The good outweighs the bad. Where Steve and Bill’s analogy falls down is that Amoxicillin saves children, RU486 kills them.

We derive good from Amoxicillin. Do we derive good from RU486? Well, I’ll leave that to you the reader.. I don’t see any.

But comparing the 2 numbers is, in many ways, like comparing apples and oranges. Sure they are somewhat analogous because they are both pharmaceuticals but that has more to do with form factor than relative worth to a society. If you are look at the larger picture of whether a product should be banned, that is completely irrelevant to the discussion.

Steve goes on to write:

We all have our preconceived notions, biases and beliefs. Ideally we don’t want these things to get in the way of scientific research or even our evaluation of information… but that is probably asking too much.

I agree. And I’m glad he would never believe something obviously untrue because it meet his political agenda.

People’s thoughts on banning of RU-486 is going to closely parallel their beliefs on abortion. And for the record, I’m not arguing in this piece that we should or shouldn’t… But I can say without a doubt; if it were apples, we’d ban it.

Forcing history to repeat itself
I'm on Hold


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