A Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde story

billboardLast week I suggested reporters cover what women go through after they have an abortion, and today the New York Times, of all papers, has a story that mentions counseling done for some women who regret their abortions. The story, by John Leland, profiles A Woman's Choice Resource Center, which provides ultrasounds, counseling, diapers, baby clothes and adoption referrals to more than 4,000 women each year. The story says the country has 2,300 to 3,500 crisis pregnancy centers nationwide, compared with about 1,800 abortion centers.

The women in this Bible study, a postabortion recovery group, are far from the public battles over abortion laws and the Supreme Court nomination of Judge Samuel A. Alito Jr. But in their quiet way, they represent a dimension of the anti-abortion movement that is just as passionate and far-reaching, consisting not of protesters or political activists but of Christian therapy groups, crisis pregnancy centers, adoption ministries, and support programs for single mothers and their children.

The first ten paragraphs or so of the story were fairly descriptive and interesting. I've been interested in the abortion issue for decades and I found it educational. And it's nice to see that as abortion opponents prepare to march in Washington a week from today, papers are ramping up their coverage of the folks on that side of the issue. Unfortunately, the Times story veered off into viscerally one-sided territory, portraying crisis pregnancy centers as sneaky organizations that obtain clients by deceiving women and tricking them. It's not news that abortion clinic personnel and supporters loathe crisis pregnancy centers, but a news story should probably try to obtain more balance:

A Woman's Choice links the church to a national network of crisis pregnancy centers and postabortion groups that share marketing strategies, legal advice and literature emphasizing what they say are the harmful effects of abortion -- including increased risk of breast cancer and a psychological condition called postabortion syndrome, which are considered scientifically unsupported by the National Cancer Institute and the American Psychological Association.

Like many crisis pregnancy centers, A Woman's Choice is designed to look and feel like a medical center, not a religion-based organization with an agenda. Becky Edmondson, the executive director, said the center chose the look and name to reach women who were bombarded with pressures to abort and might think they had no other choice.

"A religion-based organization with an agenda." Nice! I guess abortion clinics and the New York Times don't have an agenda, but crisis pregnancy centers do. And what's worse, they're "religion-based."

I also love how the reporter, rather than quoting recent peer-reviewed research (also ignored by the Times when it came out in December) about the increased trauma experienced by women who have abortions, invokes the American Psychological Assocation to discredit the possibility that women who have abortions might suffer from it. Now, maybe the American Psychological Assocation was too busy publishing papers saying conservatives were crazy or that paedophilia should be given a value neutral term, such as adult-child love, but I have news for the New York Times: the American Psychological Association has an agenda. Now, that's not bad. It turns out that everybody has an agenda. But Times reporters shouldn't just notice it when it's the folks they disagree with. Here's more along the same lines: article bigpic 1

Surveys of postabortive women about their experiences have produced mixed and inconclusive results, allowing advocates on either side of the abortion issue to claim support for their view of whether abortion leaves regrets or psychological damage. Two analyses published in the same peer-reviewed medical journal, using the same data, came to opposite conclusions about whether women who have abortions suffer more depression than women who give birth after unwanted pregnancies.

I just have to mention one of my pet peeves. Now, I know it's impossible to conceive that any Times reporter would ever make stuff up out of whole cloth, or that if that happened, the editorial process at the paper of record would quickly catch it, but if you're going to mention studies with inconclusive and mixed results, go ahead and name the studies or at least which medical journal they appeared in. Don't expect readers to just trust the reporter. Give readers enough information so they can check out the studies and determine whether the reporter characterized them accurately.

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