The news of a Chinese child found in the waste-pipe of a toilet is creating waves in the news. Perhaps, therefore, it would be worth taking a hard look at ourselves.
Conventional figures imply that life expectancy is increasing in the UK. For example, between 1966 and 2010, life expectancy rose from 72 to 79, an improvement normally attributed to better public health, better nutrition, and so on. But these figures don't tell the whole story.
In 1967, the Abortion Act came into force, resulting in a huge surge in the number of abortions performed in the UK. The ratio of abortions to life births increased from 1 in 46 in 1966 to 1 in 3.8 in 2010. That's right, for every four children that make it as far as the delivery room, one was deliberately killed in the womb. Next time see a handful of kids playing in the park, spare a thought for the one who never got the chance.
Once the deaths of these unborn infants is taken into account - even allowing for estimates of the illegal abortions performed prior to the Abortion Act - the figures look slightly different. It turns out that life expectancy has in fact fallen from 70 years in 1966 to 64 years in 2010. Roughly a 10% drop, not a 10% increase.
The truth about life expectancy clearly depend on what you count as "life".
Here are the figures:
Data for 1966
Number of abortions: 21,400 (Data from Johnston's Archive.)
Number of live births: 979,587 (Data from Johnston's Archive.)
Life expectancy at birth excluding the effect of abortions: 72 (69 for men; 75 for women. Data from Longevity Panel.)
Life expectancy at birth including the effect of abortions: 70
Data for 2010
Number of abortions: 203,714 (Data from Johnston's Archive. Not including 5221 abortions performed on foreign nationals who travelled to the UK to obtain an abortion.)
Number of live births: 778,823 (Data from Johnston's Archive.)
Life expectancy at birth excluding the effect of abortions: 79 (77 for men; 81 for women. Data from Longevity Panel.)
Life expectancy at birth including the effect of abortions: 64
Johnston's Archive: http://www.johnstonsarchive.net/policy/abortion/ab-unitedkingdom.html
Thanks to Rob Maddox for the insight that prompted this post.