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Science Takes Back Seat to Personal Attacks on PBS Program

by | Oct 9, 2013

By Dave Andrusko

Editor’s note. This ran in the August 2007 National Right to Life News and is today’s edition of our year-long “Roe at 40” series where we are bringing you some of the best articles that have appeared in NRL News going back to 1973! This story concerns a contentious PBS program where the pro-life researcher is mauled and the pro-abortion representative treated with kid gloves. But for all that, there’s good stuff here, a reminder that we need to take advantage of every opportunity to get the truth out, even when the host/hostess will not give us a fair shake.

Maria Hinojosa

Maria Hinojosa

On July 20, PBS’s weekly news program, NOW, examined the controversy over whether women can and do suffer serious emotional distress in the aftermath of an abortion. The PBS web page provided hyperlinks to almost as many sources that affirmed that conclusion as those which did not, leading the unwary viewer to suspect the program itself might be half-way balanced.

Such was not the case. With barely concealed hostility, NOW’s Maria Hinojosa, the on-camera presence, all but got in the face of anyone who suggested there really is science to buttress the assertion that a percentage of women probably at least 10%-20% suffer severe mental and emotional problems after their abortions. [Editor’s note. More recent research suggests the figure is closer to 30%.]

In many ways, the program was a condensed version of a cover story that appeared in the January 21, 2007, issue of the New York Times Magazine. Written by Emily Bazelton, “Is There a Post-Abortion Syndrome?” offered a circuitous voyage around the recent and rapidly accumulating scientific evidence that clearly shows the negative psychological consequences of abortion on women.

The article and the PBS program had something else in common: Prof. Priscilla Coleman. By agreeing to talk to each, Dr. Coleman, an expert in this field, walked into the lion’s den, not once, but twice.

Hinojosa and Bazelton simply ignored the many articles Coleman provided to them with evidence establishing the connection between abortion and a host of post-abortion emotional and relational difficulties that had been published in peer-reviewed journals. In both instances, the emphasis was on the work of people Hinojosa and Bazelton obviously felt could be caricatured, rather than on the science or the loving assistance offered to deeply depressed women who are trying to put their lives back together.

The NOW program was even more blatant than the New York Times Magazine piece. The notion that pro-lifers care not a twit about women’s mental and physical health was not a vague subtext. It was flatly asserted.

In that vein, Hinojosa told her audience (in almost conspiratorial tones) that pro-lifers have adopted a “new strategy” that focuses on abortion’s damage to women. It’s bad enough that this “seismic shift” is financed by “millions” of dollars invested by pro-lifers in a “multifaceted strategy.” Worse yet, according to an indignant Hinojosa, is that pro-lifers have co-opted the language of the “women’s rights movement,” conjured up dubious pseudo-science, and portrayed women as victims.

Hinojosa bristled when interviewing Prof. Coleman. All the viewer can know is what he or she sees aired. But in the 95% of the interview left on the cutting room floor, it’s not hard to imagine that there were a number of observations that backed up Coleman’s evidence that women do suffer grievously from their abortions.

The evidence not presented would have included the 14 studies that Coleman has co-authored since 2002 that have been published in peer-reviewed journals. When taken in conjunction with the work of David Fergusson (a self-described “pro-choicer”) and Anne Nordal Broen, this research has reversed many of the methodological problems that plagued earlier work.

But had this been included, the viewer would have been presented with hard science to balance the e-mails Hinojosa says the program received from leading “independent” experts claimed to found methodological problems galore in all the studies that have shown how poorly women fare under the regime of abortion on demand.

While Dr. Coleman was being interrogated, the utterances of Dr. Nada Stotland were treated with kid gloves. Stotland, the incoming president of the American Psychiatric Association, did not go quite as far as she did in a letter to the editor to the New York Times where she wrote that “anti-abortion activists have even made up a mental disease: ‘abortion trauma syndrome.'” (Did Stotland make up a mental disease? I’ve heard of post-abortion trauma and post-abortion syndrome, but never “abortion trauma syndrome.”) But she came close.

Not once did Hinojosa challenge a declaration by Stotland, many of which were ad hominem attacks.

But there was one unintended positive consequence of “Post-Abortion Politics.” It occurred near the end of a segment that dealt with the many pro-life bills that were introduced in the Texas legislature last session.

The focus was on legislation that would require abortionists who use ultrasounds to make it optional for a pregnant woman to see her unborn child. The proposed law passed in one house but failed in the other. [It subsequently passed!]

Laurie Felker Jones is deputy political director for NARAL’s Texas affiliate. She is shown on camera talking with her happy cohorts.

But Hinojosa puts it all in perspective. She intones, “They know it’s only a temporary victory.”

“You see how this is,” Felker Jones says in a weary voice. “Every session we’re never safe. They keep coming back and doing this, over and over.”

Categories: Media Bias