Tuesday, July 10, 2007

What Happened to Editors? [Jay]

This opinion piece by Dr. Sarah Prager printed in the Seattle Post Intelligencer is another example of bad editorial control when it comes to publishing articles on issues concerning bio-ethics. Dr. Prager claims that post-abortion syndrome does not exist. Period.

I have no idea whether this opinion was solicited or whether Dr. Prager submitted her article for publication, but somewhere along the line a mistake in judgement was made by the editorial board of the Seattle PI. Let me explain. Suppose I want to submit an article to my local paper, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. (Pause for laughter) All right, I submit my idea to the person responsible for screening such articles. I want to do a paper on the psychological effects of abortion on women. It is my belief (for the purposes of the illustration) that all women suffer from post-abortion stress syndrome and those that claim not to lie. It is my considered opinion and I do work in a ministry where other people counsel women who have previously had abortions. Should I be printed? Well what is the goal? If the goal is to offer the readers of the AJC expert or unusually informed opinions on subjects outside of the expertise of the journalists that comprise the editorial board then absolutely not. I do not work in this specific field of psychological study and my knowing people that do does not make me an authority.

Perhaps the editorial gatekeeper then considers the Op/Ed piece based on the strength of content alone. Dr. Prager does site specific studies that support her strong and unbelievably universal claim that , “Abortion does not cause women to sink into despair or suffer long-term psychological problems.” Doesn’t she? Does she?

Paragraph 1 – “You won't find a scientific or medical description of it anywhere because it is not real” (No citation given there)

Paragraph 2 – “There is a large body of medical literature proving that the majority of women who have abortions suffer no negative medical or psychological consequences.” (None there)

Paragraph 3 - “Research by the American Psychological Association supports that claim, finding that 76 percent of women report feeling relief after abortion while only 17 percent report feelings of guilt.” (Ah, research. Where I can I find that again?)

Paragraph 4 – “Pregnant women who make informed decisions about abortion are no different, and usually feel just fine about their choice.” (Okay, still looking for a citation)

Paragraph 6 – “Abortion does not cause women to sink into despair or suffer long-term psychological problems.” (That has got to be backed by…nope. Still nothing.)

Paragraph 7 – “In this case, the weight is on the side of extensive research, which has shown repeatedly that the syndrome doesn't exist.” (Extensive research. That is much more impressive than the word research flying solo earlier, but still no citation.)

So the editorial board has an article that makes a minimum of 6 strong assertions and supports these claims by the strength of the repeated use of the word “research” and some stray statistics from a person who is not by profession an expert in the field in question.

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer says, “Why not! Sure let’s run with it! You’re an abortion provider? Even better! No conflict of interest there. Don’t worry about giving us actual sources to support your claims. Your use of the word research is strong enough for us.”

Without getting into the issue of PAS, this is a bad move. That is providing the editorial board wants to offer informed opinions to the readers. If they just want to stir the pot a bit, then print whatever nonsense you want. Credibility is not as important as it used to be in journalism.

For the record, Dr. Prager, at best you are making an argument that PAS is not universally suffered by women who have abortions. I am surprised that a woman as supportive of "women's rights" is so quick to angrily dismiss the felt experiences of so many other women. You certainly do not have the material evidence to do so.

JivinJehoshaphat tries to help her by actually citing a source on her statistics, but he points out even there Dr. Prager is misleading or misled. Take your pick.

4 comments:

  1. Jay,
    This is good stuff: "Credibility is not as important as it used to be in journalism."

    This is so true. All the scandal at the New York Times in recent years has kind of brought this issue out. Also,not that I think the Washington Post represents excellence in journalism, but if the movie "All The President's Men" is an accurate representaion of what really happened during the Watergate investigation by Woodward and Bernstien, the editor in the movie showed some integrity. Every time the pair of reporters came to the editor with something they thought was big, he kept asking them, "Is she on the record?", "Do you have any evidence?". "I need proof!!!". Before I could go on Dr. Dobson's radio show, I was asked to provide photos, documents, and names of doctors to prove what I was saying about my daughter's case was accurate. Sometimes I will read something like your post Jay, and think, "Do they have an editor on staff there?". Great find , Jay. Lori V.

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  2. Great article, Jay. One of the most powerful things pro-life advocates can use is sources to the studies we cite.

    This is what is so brilliant about the way Scott Klusendorf debates. He holds up the research papers he is citing, or has even put them up on overhead projectors for the entire audience to see! The other side has nothing to say.

    I've experienced this as well. My last debate was with a representative of the Feminist Women's Health Center at Emory University. (That abortion mill performs over 2,000 surgical abortions a year.) I spent the whole evening framing the debate around what is the unborn, and responding to her typical rhetoric with facts and research that I could hold up.

    My favorite example of this is when we were talking about whether better access to birth control would reduce abortions or not. I held up this Alan Guttmacher report that says over half the women that had abortions were on contraception the month they became pregnant! (There are a bunch of other similar studies that also debunk her argument, but this ones my favorite.)

    My opponents response to the Guttmacher report? A lame attempt to accuse me of using false statistics.

    My reply? "Then you should take that up with Planned Parenthood. It's their study."

    Her response? "Well, ah, ummm, if it's a Planned Parenthood study, then it's probably true, but I still believe that contraception will stop abortion."

    Did you catch that?! Not only did she admit that my study was probably factual, but she still tried to hold on to the same argument I was refuting with said study. As you can imagine, the audience was not impressed.

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  3. My opponents response to the Guttmacher report? A lame attempt to accuse me of using false statistics.

    'My reply? "Then you should take that up with Planned Parenthood. It's their study."

    Her response? "Well, ah, ummm, if it's a Planned Parenthood study, then it's probably true, but I still believe that contraception will stop abortion."'


    You go Josh! I wish I could have been there to see that one! You have it on video? Lori V.

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  4. Sadly, no. It was the second time I got roped into debating a young African-American female in front of an almost 100% black audience. A bit like Daniel in the lions den. I wrote an article about the debate I did before this one, with Georgians for Choice. Scott enjoyed it a lot and referred to it in one of his fundraising letters. You can read it by clicking here.

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