Thursday, May 13, 2004
Covering her tracks: The Boston Globe's Ellen Goodman, got caught in a lie and instead of a correction, we get a valiant effort at covering one's rear.
In her April 25 column on the pro-abortion march on Washington, Goodman made the following statement.
AT TIMES, I've had a fantasy about my generation as the last brigade parading for reproductive rights under a banner of "Post-Menopausal Women for Choice." After all, those of us who remember when birth control was illegal and when 10,000 American women a year died from illegal abortions don't have to imagine a world without choices. [emphasis added]
It's that 10,000 number that's troubling. Goodman is connecting the 10,000 dead annually with the fact that abortion was illegal. When it was made legal, everything was hunky-dory.
In her column today, Goodman backtracks.
I bring this up because of a recent column I wrote on the March for Women's Lives. I referred to the bad old days when 10,000 women a year died of illegal abortions. Ka-boom. The number – 10,000 deaths – produced a mother lode of e-mails insisting it was a lie, propaganda or an "urban legend." Many said the figure came from Bernard Nathanson, formerly pro-choice and now pro-life, who has claimed responsibility for the bunk he now debunks.
Well, as someone who is both pro-choice and pro-facts, I went back into the deep, dark numeric archives with guide Stanley Henshaw, who, poor soul, actually is writing a paper on all this for the Guttmacher Institute.
I will spare you the details, but the 10,000 figure didn't come from Mr. Nathanson, it came from Frederick Taussig, circa 1936. In 1930, abortion was the official cause of death for almost 2,700 women. But "official" wasn't the whole story. Though data admittedly was skimpy by today's standards, Mr. Taussig's research estimated 8,000 to 10,000 deaths.
So, the 10,000 women died in 1936. Let's go back to Goodman's first column again.
After all, those of us who remember when birth control was illegal and when 10,000 American women a year died...[emphasis added]
So, lets say your first memories that you hold onto in maturity are those when you're about four years old. That would put Goodman's birth (after all, she's old enough to "remember" 1936) sometime in 1932. Which would make Goodman 72 years old.
Goodman has an excellent memory, because she was born in 1948.
The way Goodman constructed her original sentence ("when 10,000 American women a year died from illegal abortions") was obviously intended to show that the reason behind all of these deaths was that abortion was illegal. Unfortunately (again) for Goodman's case, that's not true -- and she admits it, now.
Over the decades, the numbers shrank to hundreds and then dozens because of penicillin, because doctors began performing abortions and because abortion became legal in critical states such as New York. By 1972, the year before the Roe vs. Wade decision, the Centers for Disease Control reported that 39 women died from illegal or self-induced abortions. [emphasis added]
Penicillin is the major reason -- far more than doctors performing the abortions and them becoming legal in New York -- that the number of abortion-related deaths dropped to almost nil.
Goodman got caught in a lie, and she has gone to great lengths to back it up.
A correction would've been so much easier, but then, 39 isn't as impressive a number as 10,000.