I recant. Ross Douthat is a really lousy choice for New York Times op-ed columnist.
Here we have Belle Sawhill and Adam Thomas, serious people writing serious things to inform the public:
Keep Politics Away from the Promise of Family Planning: Democrats have, however, already compromised on one important front. When the bill came to the floor of the House for debate, the Rules Committee stripped a provision from it that would have given states the option to expand a Medicaid-funded program subsidizing family planning services for low-income women.... Republicans portrayed this provision as an example of wasteful spending.... They also argued – incorrectly – that the program subsidizes abortion.... [O]n its own merits, the family planning provision is good public policy. Not only would it reduce abortions – which is the exact opposite of what its opponents have argued – but it would also save the government money by reducing unplanned and out-of-wedlock childbearing. In fact, it promises to produce greater long-term returns than many of the programs that will ultimately be retained in the final stimulus package.... [I]n states that have already been granted income-eligibility waivers, this policy led to a significant reduction in the number of sexually-active women who have unprotected sex... a similar expansion in contraceptive services in the remaining states would reduce the annual number of children born out of wedlock by more than 25,000, would reduce the number of pregnancies to unmarried teenagers each year by 19,000, and would reduce the annual number of abortions to unmarried women by nearly 12,000. These effects are substantial, and they have important social implications...
And here is what Ross Douthat does with this:
How Do You Solve a Problem Like Abortion?: Consider, for instance, the idea that the government should dramatically expand eligibility for free contraception through Medicaid.... [A]s of 2004, there were 2.8 million pregnancies among unmarried women in the United States, and roughly 1 million abortions.... [T]his program, according to its supporters might reduce the national abortion rate by somewhere between 1 and 2 percent... in a country of millions upon millions, where countless trends shift the number of pregnancies and abortions around from year to year, it's perilously close to statistical noise...
The New York Times could do a lot better--it might, for example, only employ columnists who know what "statistical noise" means.
And it might employ a columnist who can calculate that if extending free contraception services to 1/12 of women of childbearing age reduces abortions among the unmarried by 12000, that is not a 2% but a 20% reduction.