Patterico's Pontifications

11/29/2004

Don’t Get Cocky, NYT Editors! Los Angeles Times Editors Also Know How to Regurgitate Talking Points from the Left!

Filed under: Abortion,Dog Trainer — Patterico @ 6:48 pm

Newspaper editorial writers could learn something from bloggers.

Blogging etiquette generally requires that bloggers “show their work” by providing links to their sources (or, if no Web link is available, to explain where readers can go to find the source).

Editorial writers, by contrast, usually throw out “facts” with no attribution. Often, their failure to provide sources for their assertions helps them to obscure the fact that they are relying on blatantly partisan and unreliable sources for their information.

Yesterday, I showed you how New York Times editors swallowed whole some Democrat talking points regarding judicial filibusters. Today, I’d like to provide another example of an editorial blindly repeating baseless assertions made by special interest groups. Today’s example comes courtesy of the leftist editors at the Los Angeles Times.

The editorial in question ran yesterday, and was titled Chipping Away at Roe vs. Wade. The main point of the editorial is exceptionally silly, and is torn apart with great skill by Xrlq in this post. Xrlq shows how the Dog Trainer editors seem to believe there is a more expansive right to abortion than to any other Constitutional right, including that of freedom of speech.

I want to focus on a different aspect of the editorial. The editors make the following claim — without providing a source:

Later-stage abortions most often result from fears for the woman’s health or fetal anomalies.

My question is: what is the source for this statement? And my guess is: the abortion lobby. Because I am aware of no credible support for this assertion in neutral sources.

It is difficult to find reliable information on this topic, because there are no reliable sources of statistics. But in researching the issue, I have found dispassionate analyses in two generally liberal publications that directly contradict the assertion made by L.A. Times editors.

For example, the liberal Washington Post reported on September 17, 1996 (link unavailable on the Web, accessible via Nexis):

Opponents of the [partial-birth abortion] ban, including President Clinton, have used patients and data drawn chiefly from the practice of one abortion doctor to portray the procedure as an extremely rare one, used almost exclusively in cases where a woman discovers that her pregnancy threatens her own life or that the fetus is severely deformed. They also have implied that in some cases, it is the only abortion technique that can safely be used.

Interviews with physicians, as well as information gleaned from published documents and congressional testimony, paint a different picture of these late-term abortions.

It is possible — and maybe even likely — that the majority of these abortions are performed on normal fetuses, not on fetuses suffering genetic or developmental abnormalities. Furthermore, in most cases where the procedure is used, the physical health of the woman whose pregnancy is being terminated is not in jeopardy. In virtually all cases, there are alternative ways to perform the abortion safely, though perhaps not as safely as when intact D&E is used.

Instead, the “typical” patients tend to be young, low-income women, often poorly educated or naive, whose reasons for waiting so long to end their pregnancies are rarely medical. Only in the small subgroup of women whose abortions are done extremely late — in the last one-third of gestation — are most of the fetuses malformed, and most of the pregnancies initially desired.

The Post article is certainly not a one-sided screed against abortion. It goes on to argue that abortion opponents have also made misleading arguments about partial-birth abortion (by falsely suggesting that the procedure is regularly performed in the eighth or ninth month, when it is generally done before the 24th week of pregnancy).

A piece by Franklin Foer came to similar conclusions. Foer is a senior editor for the leftist The New Republic, who has written pieces with titles like “The Case Against George W. Bush, Part I — Closing of the Presidential Mind.” Does he sound like a conservative to you? Foer addressed the topic of late-term abortions in Slate, another generally liberal media outlet. According to Foer:

Last fall, both the Washington Post and the Bergen Record ran front-page stories asserting that pro-choice groups underestimate the number of “intact dilation and extraction” (IDE) procedures, to use the medical term, that are performed. [Note: the Washington Post piece is the one discussed earlier in this post.] . . . After interviewing doctors who perform the procedure, both papers concluded that only in very few instances was the IDE actually necessary to protect the woman’s health. Most of them were performed on poor women who could not muster the money to pay for abortions earlier in their pregnancies.

Again, Foer’s piece can hardly be considered biased in favor of abortion opponents. The main point of his piece is to question the credibility and significance of statements made by “apostate” Ron Fitzsimmons — statements that had been repeated to great effect by opponents of abortion.

(By the way, while the above observations relate specifically to partial-birth abortions, or “IDEs,” there is no logical reason that they would not hold true for late-term abortions generally. Partial-birth abortion is simply one technique used to perform late-term abortions; the other principal method is dismemberment within the womb. There is no reason to believe that the motivations of women having late-term abortions bears any relationship to which of these two methods is used to accomplish the abortion. If articles tend to concentrate on the motivations of women having partial-birth abortions, that is only because the visibly grisly nature of the procedure makes it more controversial than the equally gruesome but less visible procedure of ripping a child open within the womb.)

Foer concludes:

There is little doubt about the pro-choice media’s unquestioning acceptance of the faulty pro-choice statistics. Editorial boards at the Washington Post and the New York Times took the position that a ban on late-term abortions is bad because it affects only women carrying badly deformed babies who have no other alternative.

Well, Mr. Foer, you can add the editorial board of the Los Angeles Times to the list of overly credulous pontificators on this issue. In light of the evidence I have presented, it seems highly unlikely that the editors had a solid and unbiased source for their claim that late-term abortions “most often result from fears for the woman’s health or fetal anomalies.” If they had one, they probably would have provided it.

My guess is that, if the offending editor were forced to reveal the source for his assertion, it would prove to be either: 1) “the abortion lobby” or 2) “my ass.”

And I’m afraid that neither one constitutes a very impressive source.

5 Responses to “Don’t Get Cocky, NYT Editors! Los Angeles Times Editors Also Know How to Regurgitate Talking Points from the Left!”

  1. “…or 2) “my ass.” And I’m afraid that neither one constitutes a very impressive source.”

    Well, there’s another example of making a claim without a source. Don’t you have any pictures? :-)

    Regret (f9bb03)

  2. I think you’re being quite unfair to the way pro-choice people use the statistics. The section that you didn’t bold from the Post is the germane data:

    “Only in the small subgroup of women whose abortions are done extremely late — in the last one-third of gestation — are most of the fetuses malformed, and most of the pregnancies initially desired.”

    That’s the info I’ve always heard from pro-choice advocates. That late-term (last third) abortions are generally done due to malformed fetuses, and that the woman’s life is frequently in danger. Never has the claim been made to me, at least, that this was true of “partial-birth abortion” techniques in the middle third.

    It’s not an issue of anyone attempting to be misleading. It’s the sad, frequent case of talking at cross-purposes: what’s the real topic? The techniques (D&E) or 3rd trimester abortions?

    I for one, was indeed not aware that D&E was used frequently in 2nd trimester abortions, and it’s something I’ll have to look into now.

    Stephen Duncan Jr (484dec)

  3. Where to begin?

    Here is an article from the Canberra Times that says:

    However, from 1998 to 2002, there were 377 late-term abortions – classified as more than 20 weeks (of which 16 were performed at 24 weeks or later). The mother’s “mental health” was the most common reason for late- term abortions, with 196 recorded in the five years.

    The proponents of late-term abortion always insist the majority of late-term abortions are done almost entirely for severe congenital abnormalities. In fact most late-term abortions in South Australia are of healthy foetuses.

    The article makes two points relevant to our discussion:

    1) Contrary to your definition of “late-term” abortions as taking place solely in the third trimester, the article classifies “late-term” abortions as abortions occurring after 20 weeks. That includes about two months of the second trimester, since the third trimester lasts from weeks 28 to 40.

    2) The article provides further evidence that most late-term abortions are of healthy fetuses — exactly what the sources I quoted say.

    This may explain why, in the sources I quoted, “pro-choice” groups do indeed claim that late-term abortions are generally of malformed fetuses — an untrue claim made by partisans.

    As far as I know, partial-birth abortion and dismemberment within the womb are simply alternative techniques for performing late-term abortions. Which technique is used is generally a preference of the individual doctor. If you have different information, let me know.

    Patterico (756436)

  4. [...] orial is its obeisance to the talking points of the abortion lobby. (Readers of this blog Patterico's Pontifications » L.A. Times Deception on Rehnquist’s Legacy (0c6a63)


  5. [...] Look at that last picture. Try not to be blinded by ideology and just ask yourself, as a human being: are you comfortable with stabbing that creature in the head with a pair of scissors and sucking out its brains? Because we allow that every year in this country, on normal fetuses aborted by women whose reasons for doing so are usually not medical in nature. [...]

    Patterico’s Pontifications » A Discussion of Abortion — Part Four: When Does a Fetus Resemble a Baby? (421107)


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