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The Tally Ho

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

The New York Times switches teams

I read a couple weeks ago via Bitch Ph.D. that the New York Times, ostensibly pro-choice, has an op-ed page that has become the bastion of skeptical or anti-choice gentlemen (in 83% of essays!). Then Wells came independently upon the original source material, and I was persuaded to take a second and more thorough read. There was discussion in both the American Prospect and Bitchville over whether the NYTimes is beginning to skew anti-abortion, or whether they are overcompensating for their known and continued support of abortion rights in the unsigned articles.

This Saturday I discovered that it's not just the op-ed page. I was reading their online digest and found two separate articles dealing with choice issues: In Senate Race, Republican Candidate Questions Mrs. Clinton's Abortion Message, and Some Doctors Voice Concern Over Abortion Pills' Safety. The former is an article outlining the attack strategy of possible Repub candidate John Spencer, who is using a bill sponsored by one of Mrs. Clinton's colleagues to direct pointed questions about her stance on abortion. He wants to set up a situation where if she votes for or supports the bill, he can claim she's too militantly pro-choice. This bill "would authorize the Federal Trade Commission to crack down on any pregnancy center that suggests in its advertising that it provides abortions", which sounds more like marketing regulation than a choice bill. But the NYTimes is there, and giving lots of sound bites to Spencer.

The latter is more problematic; it interviews doctors who are expressing concern over the use of Mifeprex and mifipristone to induce early (less than 9 wks) abortions. Comments from doctors published in the article:

"[Pills] are a lousy way to perform an abortion."
"None of these women should be dying; it's shocking."
[One doctor who provides medication abortions] "was uneasy about agreeing with abortion opponents on anything. 'But the truth is the truth,' he said."
"One needs to tell patients that the medical procedure, even though it seems more natural, may be more likely to result in death."

This fuss is being raised because two more women have recently died shortly after taking a medication abortion regimen, bringing the grand total in the United States to six. Assuming that their deaths are all linked to the pills,* that would make the real-life mortality rate six out of 560,000, or slightly over 1 in 100,000. It's yet to be shown that these deaths have anything to do with the abortion of the women's pregnancies, but no one is reporting the rate of sepsis for surgical abortions or miscarriages. It's a slanted article that overstates the risk of Mifeprex and piggybacks on a story that's already overreported. Of course, to get more information on medical misstatements in the news, go check out Ema on The Well-Timed Period, who is making a part-time job out of callling the AP on their bullshit.

So as pro-choice publications go, I think the NYTimes may have lost its stripes on both the op-ed and the general reporting fronts. Or perhaps they're so inundated with messages that abortion is dangerous that they believe talking about abortion might become dangerous unless the publication is careful to state its grave concerns. Either way, this American Prospect article has really encouraged me to go check out the LA Times.
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*PPFA has released a statement about their protocol change, which may or may not address the cause of the risk. Their decision to switch protocols seems to be the spark for this recent wave of stories.

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