Saturday, July 09, 2005

Emails to hold the AP accountable

Thanks to Annie at After Abortion for getting the following email addresses to hold the AP accountable for allowing Barbara Boxer to spout an urban legend as fact:

JUSTIN M. NORTON is the Associated Press writer who didn't fact-check his Sen. Barbara Boxer story, thus making himself an accessory to journalistic error/"perjury" with the urban legend about "5,000+ abortions if Roe is reversed."

Associated Press' BURL OSBORNE, Chairman,
TOM CURLEY, AP President and CEO,
at the email addies:,, .

Annie CC'd:
Annenberg Public Policy Center
320 National Press Building
Washington DC 20045

I just sent my email to, and cc'd the AP people.

Here's what I sent:
I'm a bit disgusted, but not surprised, that the AP printed Barbara Boxer's lame recitation of an urban legend about abortion mortality.

The claims of 5,000 - 10,000 maternal deaths from illegal abortion per year in the US originated with a book -- "Abortion, Spontaneous and Induced" -- published in 1936 by Dr. Frederick Taussig, a leading proponent of legalization of abortion. At a conference in 1942, Taussig himself appologized for using "the wildest estimates" to generate a bogus number, and admitted that they were note even remotely accurate. That was over fifty years ago; it's hardly breaking news.

All a fact-checker would have had to do was call, say, the Alan Guttmacher Institute and the CDC and ask for some data, or call a reference librarian and ask for a copy of "Induced termination of pregnancy before and after Roe v. Wade" JAMA, 12/9/92, vol. 208, no. 22, p. 3231-3239. In 1940, there were 1,407 reported maternal deaths due to induced abortion -- and this would include the cases of desperately ill women dying during futile attempts to save their lives via abortion. The number fell roughly 50%, to 744, by 1945, thanks to antibiotics. By 1950 maternal deaths from induced abortions were down to fewer than 300, and they continued to fall. (Interesting note -- abortion lobbyists and other abortion supporters such as Senator Boxer claim that legalization of abortion is responsible for the fall in maternal deaths from induced abortion. I'd love to hear them explain how, since the first states didn't start loosening their abortion laws until 1968 but the biggest five-year drop in the entire century was between 1940 and 1945. Was there some sort of retroactive effect?)

The research is in a nutshell here, in an article I wrote a while back:

Christina Dunigan
Webmistress, RealChoice

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