If you have been following the headlines, you know that the topic of abortion rights in the state of Texas has been in the news. That's what happens when the U.S. Supreme Court gets involved in what is already a hot-button topic.
My goal here is not to cover territory that our own Bobby Ross, Jr., mapped out in his post on the court decision to strike down Texas laws on abortion and clinic safety standards. Click here to catch up on that.
Instead, I want to deal with a related topic covered in a recent National Public Radio report, as in the difficulty that abortion-rights advocates have finding Texans who are willing to be trained to do abortions in the first place. The headline: "Politics Makes Abortion Training In Texas Difficult."
I have no doubt that there are political issues, as well as "political" issues, that make abortion training a touchy subject in the Lone Star state. However, might there be other forces at play in addition to politics?
A mass-communications professor out in GetReligion reader land thinks so, stating:
This article has more holy ghosts than a Jack Chick Halloween comic book. I mean, let's ask the obvious question: could it be that many doctors in Texas believe that abortion is murder? Could that be a major factor? In other words -- it's not just politics that makes doctors shy away from teaching abortion in Texas.
This journalist really needs to answer the clue phone. So does her editor.
As you would expect, this NPR package spends most of its time talking about issues linked to Texas tensions linked to the funding of abortion, as well as issues linked to the safety and privacy of doctors who make their livelihoods terminating pregnancies.
Let me stress that these are issues that simply must be covered. They deserve inches of type in the report and lots of soundbites in the audio version.
Yes, it would help if the safety claims were backed up with specific stats and evidence that transcend harassment claims by people who have every motive to claim they are being harassed and threatened. I also know enough about Texas to know that there are demonstrators who are polite and play by the rules, as well as nasty people who don't. In other words, this report actually needed more reporting in that area -- including quotes from demonstrators (they are out there, trust me) who oppose even hints at violence. Prayers and hymns are different than symbolic and real threats.
So what is missing? You can see a hint in this passage:
Texas has 18 residency programs in the field of obstetrics and gynecology, but only one allowed me to observe how abortion is taught. Because of the political pressures facing abortion providers, NPR agreed not to reveal the doctors' full names or the clinic's location. The resident agreed to be identified by her middle name, Jane.
Medical residents can opt out of abortion training for religious or moral reasons, but Jane felt a professional obligation to learn the procedure.
OK, somewhere in the Texas records are some key facts linked to that final statement. Does anyone know how many medical residents opt out of this training and why they do so? How large is the percentage of those to decline to be trained in this -- especially in the Bible Belt -- controversial medical practice?
The basic question: Is the state's shortage of doctors willing to do abortions a result of POLITICS alone? Might NPR have made some effort to quantify the impact of moral and religious objections on this equation?
This lengthy passage includes valid material. But is this the whole, haunted story?
A few years ago, 48 doctors in Texas did abortions, but a recent study shows it's now down to 28. And some of the remaining doctors are nearing retirement.
Dr. Bernard Rosenfeld, 74, hasn't been able to line up a successor to lead his medical practice. He says he understands -- he's been dogged by protesters for years.
"They've picketed my house where I live," he said. "They put bullets in our parking lot."
Rosenfeld has two medical offices but provides abortions at only one, a modest brick building in Houston's museum district. He bought the clinic from other doctors in 1982, but now he can't find anyone to buy it from him.
"I've talked to some doctors, but none of them are interested in the political consequences of providing abortions," he said.
As the number of doctors in Texas dwindles, medical educators have raised the alarm about the need to train the next generation.
To find out how much abortion training was going on, I contacted all 18 OB-GYN residency programs in Texas. Although abortion is legal, and these programs are expected to provide some access to abortion training, my queries were frequently met with fear, evasion or even outright hostility.
Look through the whole NPR story. Do it two or three times. Do you see -- other than the reference to medical residents being able to "opt out of abortion training for religious or moral reasons -- any references to questions of conscience possibly affecting the decisions of future doctors in Texas?
I mean, where did this NPR people think they were? Austin and Austin alone?