lies, darn lies, statistics, etc. on the Internet: Part 1
Examples from religious & secular sources: the
pill & Planned Parenthood funding.
The menu for this section of our website discusses the types of misinformation provided by some of the religious media. We noted that:
- The good news is that these news sources don't usually lie.
- However, some sources can be seen to:
- Provide only their own assessment of the topic while remaining
silent about alternate views.
- Ignore contradictory evidence that shows their opinions to be
false, or at least suspect.
- Emphasize part of the news, while simply not reporting other
- Explain the news in a way that often leads a reader to assume
that something happened other than what really occurred.
- Reporting information from other news source's without prior fact checking.
To which we would like to add:
- Attempt to generate fear in the hearts of social and religious conservatives where none is warranted.
At the time that the initial version of this essay was written in mid-2012, we were well into the media hype related to the 2012-NOV elections. As in any major battle, truth is often the first fatality. Some sections of the religious media seems to be leading the way. A few examples follow.
Is the morning-after pill a form of abortion?
The "morning after" pill isn't what its name implies. A woman who has had unprotected sex and wants to avoid becoming pregnant can take the morning after pill immediately; she doesn't have to wait until the next morning. Also, this form of "emergency contraception" retains most of its effectiveness for 72 hours after sex. Thus, she can take it much later than the "morning after."
When the FDA originally approved the medication, there was no concensus among medical researchers about the mechanism(s) by which it worked. There was speculation that it might work:
- By inhibiting ovulation and/or
- By inhibiting conception if ovulation had ocurred, and/or
- By inhibiting the ability of the blastocyst -- the recently-fertilized ovum -- to implant itself in the inner wall of the uterus if conception had actually ocurred.
An article in the New York Times during 2012-JUN states that:
"Labels inside every box of morning-after pills, drugs widely used to prevent pregnancy after sex, say they may work by blocking fertilized eggs from implanting in a woman’s uterus. Respected medical authorities, including the National Institutes of Health and the Mayo Clinic, have said the same thing on their Web sites.
For example, one of the most common emergency contraceptives -- Plan B -- states on an information slip included with their medication:
"Plan B One-Step is believed to act as an emergency contraceptive principally by preventing ovulation or fertilization (by altering tubal transport of sperm and/or ova). In addition, it may inhibit implantation (by altering the endometrium). It is not effective once the process of implantation has begun." 8
Many conservative social and religious information sources emphasized the third possibility: that the pills allowed conception to take place, but caused the blastocyst to be rejected when it was unable to implant.
Medical authorities consider that pregnancy begins at implantation. Thus they agreed that the pill was a contraceptive and not an abortifacient, no matter by which of the three mechanisms it works. However most religious and social conservatives reject this definition, and promote the belief that pregnancy actually begins sometime during the process of conception. Thus many conservatives suggested that EC can act as an abortifacient by preventing implantation. Over time, many of them began to treat EC strictly as an abortifacient, making statements like:
- Cybercast News Service (CNS):
- "... all FDA-approved contraceptives include emergency contraceptives such as Plan B and Ella (Ulipristal), which do in fact cause the death of human embryos." 1
- "Conservatives, religious leaders, and pro-life advocates denounced the Obama administration’s Health and Human Services (HHS) sterilization-contraception-abortifacient mandate on the eve of its effective date, charging that August 1 will go down in history as the day religious liberty came to an end in America." 7
- The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB):
- "The drugs that Americans would be forced to subsidize under the new rule include Ella, which was approved by the FDA as an 'emergency contraceptive' but can act like the abortion drug RU-486. It can abort an established pregnancy weeks after conception." 2
(Emphasis in the above quotations by us).
Among the candidates for the presidency in 2012, Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum -- all Republicans -- have implied that EC acts as anabortifacient. 8
The quotation by the USCCB was an unexpected statement, because even from the earliest days of EC, medical researchers have been certain that once implantation had occurred, EC medication could never interrupt a pregnancy.
However, in the years following the approval of EC, medical researchers have learned that the medication prevents pregnancy only by preventing ovulation or conception. For example, the Emergency Contraception Website, at Princeton University and the Association of Reproductive Health Professionals state:
"There is no evidence to suggest that either of the FDA-approved emergency contraceptive options ... works after an egg is fertilized." 3
Still, many if not most conservative religious and social information sources state that EC does its work after an egg is fertilized, and regularly refer to it as an abortifacient.
More details on EC.
Taxpayer funding of Planned Parenthood:
Many conservative religious websites and other information sources advocate for the complete defunding of Planned Parenthood (PP) by the federal and state governments. Expose Planned Parenthood (EPP) is one of probably thousands of web sites that displays the following data. As of 2012-JUL-12 it showed:
Babies aborted by PP in 2011: 502,893
Taxpayer dollars paid by the federal government to PP in 2011: $ 531,077,574 ($11 every second)
The message is clear: they are implying that taxpayer dollars are being routed from Congress and state governments at the rate of $11 a second to PP in order to fund slightly more than a half million abortions yearly in the U.S. That would amount to almost half of the total number of abortions performed in the U.S.
However, they don't specifically say that. They merely display two large unrelated numbers, and expect you to jump to that conclusion.
The taxpayer dollars appear to be in error. As of mid 2012, the display which is supposed to register the total government grants and contracts for the previous year, 2011, was still advancing by $11 a second! That would only be possible in a universe in which time travel was a common ocurrance.
PP's annual report covering mid-2008 to mid-2009 listed revenue sources:
|| Millions of $
Health center income, (presumably fees & other charges)
Government grants and contracts
Private contributions and bequests
Other operating revenue
It would appear that the amount that PP received from taxpayer dollars for 2008/2009 was $363.2 million a year -- much less than is shown on the EPP web site.
However, that is not the whole story:
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
- Mat Cover, "Sebelius Claims 'No Abortifacient Drug' Covered by Contraception Mandate," CNS News, 2012-MAR-01, at: http://cnsnews.com
- "USCCB: HHS Mandate for Contraceptive and Abortifacient Drugs Violates Conscience Rights," United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, 2011-AUG-01, at: http://www.usccb.org/
- "How emergency contraception works: How does emergency contraception prevent pregnancy?," Princeton University, at: http://ec.princeton.edu/
- "The Promise of Change," Planned Parenthood Federation of America annual report, 2008-2009, at: http://www.plannedparenthood.org/
- Ezra Klein, "What Planned Parenthood actually does, in one chart," Washington Post, 2012-FEB-02, at: http://www.washingtonpost.com/
- "Fact Sheets & Reports," Planned Parenthood, at: http://www.plannedparenthood.org/
- Elizabeth Harrington, "Aug. 1: Death knell for religious freedom say conservatives," CNS News, 2012-JUL-31, at: http://cnsnews.com/
- Pam Belluck, "Abortion qualms on morning-after pill may be unfounded," New York Times, 2012-JUN-05, at: http://www.nytimes.com/
Copyright © 2012 by Ontario Consultants on Religious
Originally written: 2012-JUL-13
Latest update: 2012-SEP-21
Author: B.A. Robinson