Investigative JournalismWhile I was looking for something specific about abortionist Ulrich Klopfer, who is in trouble now for failing to report the statutory rape of a 13-year-old girl, I went digging through the Chicago Sun-Times series, "The Abortion Profiteers." This series ran from November 12 through November 28, 1978.
Assisted by members of the Chicago Better Government Association, Sun-Times reporters Pamela Zekman, Pamela Warrick, and Ellen Warren completed a five-month investigation into Chicago abortion businesses. Volunteers went under cover, getting jobs at the clinics and telling the journalists what they saw.
I was looking, as I said, for something specific about Klopfer. I'll blog that later when I find it. What I did find quickly was an article I'd forgotten had even been in the series: "Pregnant or not, women given abortions," published on November 22.
[W]orking undercover at the Water Tower Reproductive Center, ... BGA investigator Minda Trossman counted 81 abortion procedures performed on women with negative pregnancy test results. That was 12 per cent of all the women who received abortions during the two months Trossman worked there.The article then goes on to report on Biogenetics, Ltd.:
During a five-month investigation ... we witnessed some of these painfully needless abortions and saw the aftermath. Women innocently underwent abortions they didn't need and, as a result, suffered massive infections, bruises, wrenching cramps, severe bleeding.
Observing Dr. Arnold Bickham:
Trossman watched once as Bickham turned what was supposed to be a simple examination into a fast abortion on a woman with no apparent signs of pregnancy. ....The report then goes into a then-popular procedure for doing very early abortions called "menstrual extraction." The method fell out of favor because the embryo is so small very early in the pregnancy that the abortion is often unsuccessful and the woman needs to go through a second, later procedure if she still wants to abort the pregnancy.
"Am I pregnant?" the patient asked.
Bickham ignored her question. Let me examine you," he said. After a brief examination, Bickham turned on the suction machine and started the abortion.
Only then did he answer. "Yes," said Bickham, "definitely pregnant. Definitely pregnant ... but not any more."
Most women who undergo extractions aren't pregnant in the first place. Unless patients are carefully screened, as many as 80 per cent of the women who undergo extractions do so needlessly. .... Many doctors consulted by the Sun Times said they would not even consider performing a menstrual extraction on a woman with a negative pregnancy test. Yet, at the Water Tower and Biogenetics clinics, it's the women with the negative tests who are most often sold the extractions.
Same Old Same OldSelling abortions to women who only believe they are pregnant isn't something that vanished after "The Abortion Profiteers" and then resurfaced recently with Patel. In March of 1995, I was at Life Dynamics and we were working on Lime 5, a book about abortion malpractice and its enablers. We got a call from one of Diane Sawyer's assistants. Ms. Sawyer, we were told, had heard rumors that some abortion facilities were selling abortions to women who were not, in fact, pregnant; they just thought they were.
We told Ms. Sawyer's assistant that this was a slow news day kind of story that local journalists would often do: send female reporters to abortion clinic with male reporter's urine specimens, and then document being told that they were pregnant and the attempts to sell them abortions.
We supplied the assistant with what he asked for -- a list of abortionists who were still practicing even after having been caught selling abortions to women who were not pregnant.
Abortion practice hasn't changed, but abortion-related journalism has. Gone are the days of reporters investigating abortion clinics and informing the public about dangerous or fraudulent practitioners in their midst.
Why Has Journalism Changed?Why has this changed? The attitudes of the journalists toward abortion hasn't changed. When Ms. Zekman, Ms. Warrick, and Ms. Warren wrote "The Abortion Profiteers," they weren't anti-abortion reporters seeking to besmirch abortion providers. They were staunchly pro-choice reporters seeking to protect women from unscrupulous and dangerous practitioners. But when we provided Ms. Sawyer with a rogues gallery of Gosnellesque quackery, alerting women to unscrupulous and dangerous practitioners was no longer a priority. And as we saw with the media coverage of Kermit Gosnell and other deplorable abortion practitioners since he was exposed, alerting women to unscrupulous and dangerous practitioners remains a non-priority, just as Ms. Sawyer considered those practitioners to be a non-story.
I think what has happened is that journalists have been developing a deepening sense of unease about what goes on behind the doors of America's abortion facilities. Nobody likes to get bad news about people they respect and trust. We want to continue to think the best of them. And pro-choice journalists, being human, want to be able to respect and trust the abortion-rights organizations they depend upon for nearly everything they write about abortion. Nobody wants to learn that they've been duped, lied to, and used.
The unquestioned presumption that "safe and legal" is the status-quo can not stand under the weight of too much evidence of appalling wrongdoing inside American abortion practices. That evidence must be avoided at all costs, even if it involves averting one's eyes from the Gosnells and the Patels at the cost of women's well-being and even their lives.