Tuesday, March 09, 2004

Profit Motive for Abortion???
Phyllis Schlafly on the Abortion Industry

A few days ago I stumbled across -- well, no, actually I found it via a Google search -- a website called townhall.com.  It is a site with lots of columns written by persons with conservative political tendencies.  The column I read first was called Deficits Don't Matter, by Johan Goldberg.  Although I don't agree with everything he says, or even his main point, it was a reasonably good and informative piece.  So, I signed up for their e-mail TOC.  As a result, I read a column by William F. Buckley, The Impossible Reform; and one by George Will called You're Not In Control.  Again, well-written works, and not awfully ideologically slanted.  I read a few others, less noteworthy, but not overtly offensive, either.

Then -- it had to happen -- I stumbled across a column by Phyllis Shlafly.  It is called Ashcroft Stands Up to the Abortion Industry.  This article is noteworthy, yes, but only for its offensiveness. 

Ashcroft stands up to abortion industry
Phyllis Shlafly    March 8, 2004

Abortion has been legal in the United States for more than 30 years, yet little is publicly known about the practices of this billion-dollar industry. American taxpayers foot many of the costs but are left in the dark about what they fund.

That may soon change, thanks to the courageous defense by U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft of the Partial-Birth Abortion Act. The Justice Department is battling three lawsuits that seek to overturn this statute, which President Bush signed into law on Nov. 5, 2003. [...]

The Justice Department has issued subpoenas for records about abortions performed by plaintiffs and their witnesses. When they ultimately take the witness stand to argue "medical necessity" for their abortions, U.S. attorneys can cross-examine them based on their own records.

No patient names will be revealed, as the government has already agreed to delete personal identifiers from the records. The issue is the conduct by the doctor, not the patient.

Requiring disclosure of material central to a lawsuit is Litigation 101, basic to the Anglo-American legal system. For hundreds of years, trials have relied on this adversarial system to sift fact from fiction.

Most people accept these rules of fairness. But abortionists are accustomed to withholding information about abortion, such as its correlation with breast cancer.

[...]The former Republican counsel to the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, Manuel Miranda, recently observed that clinics derive an average of $1,000 for each abortion performed.

In its 2002-2003 annual report, Planned Parenthood reported a hefty operating gain of $36.6 million. At a time when companies are struggling to remain profitable, Planned Parenthood reported a 200 percent increase over the previous year's $12.2 million gain.

In a riveting interview, Miranda explained that the political fight over abortion is about "profits," not just "rights."

I could write objections all day long, just to this excerpt; if I commented on the entire article, it would take a couple of days.  I will confine this to a just a couple of remarks.  First, the issue of breast cancer being linked to abortion is not an example of abortionists withholding information.  On the contrary, it is an example of some politicians suppressing scientific information.  The most comprehensive information, which includes an analysis of 1.5 million women, including 370,715 induced abortions and 10,246 cases of breast cancer, indicates no increased risk.  See the original article at the NEJM website.  This site also includes links to more recent articles that have referenced the original one, so it is easy to see all of the more recent work on the subject.  For Ms. Schlafly to repeat the implication that abortion is linked to breast cancer is either an indication that she has not done her homework, or that she has knowingly repeated a lie.  Anyone who wants to can go to Entrez (the new metasearch engine at NCBI) and do a complete search of the medical literature on the subject. 

Second, the notion that there is an "abortion industry" with a "profit motive" is both ludicrous and ironically vexing.  Any Ob/Gyn could easily make twice the money she or he makes working at planned parenthood, just by working in a hospital or a private practice.   Yes, doctors do make money doing abortions.  But they would make far more doing something else.  Furthermore, it is ironic that a column posted on a conservative website would decry an activity for being profitable.  Since when is making a profit contrary to conservative values? 

Third, there is no justification for accessing medical records of persons who are not parties to the lawsuit.  Although it is a nice gesture to remove "personal identifiers" from the records, the fact is that even this does not guarantee the anonymity of the patient.  Seemingly anonymous information, such as the time and date that a prescription was called to a pharmacy, could be used to identify a patient.  Yes, it would take detective work to do this, but I think Ashcroft has at least a few detectives under his command.  Remember, this is going to be a very public proceeding.  It is likely that any document used in the trial will become a public document.  Her point that requiring disclosure of information is "Litigation 101" is overly simplistic.  For the government to demand release of privileged information from a person who is not party to the suit is something that demands judicial oversight, with the burden of proof of relevance falling heavily on the side of the person demanding the information. 

One last comment.  She cites information presented by Manual Miranda.  He is hardly a credible source of information, having just resigned (1 2 3 4) in the face of a Senate scandal. 

OK, really, one last comment:  Phyllis Schlafly, the one who complains about a "profit motive" has this below her column:

Just released! Phyllis Schlafly's latest!
Feminist Fantasies
No assault has been more ferocious than feminism's 40-year war against women, and no battlefield leader has been more courageous than Schlafly. In a new book of dispatches from the front, feminism's most potent foe exposes the delusions and hypocrisy behind a movement that has cheated millions of women out of their happiness, health, and security. <read book review>

That's right, after complaining about a "profit motive," there is an advertisement for her book.  Tell me, is she is donating the profit to charity?

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