Takeaways from the UCSF Abortion “Turnaway” Study

By Randall K. O’Bannon, Ph.D., NRL-ETF Director of Educational & Research

Part 4 of 5: Research Team with an Agenda

Editor’s note: As noted previously, researchers the University of California at San Francisco (UCSF) conducted a five year “prospective longitudinal” study beginning in 2008 looking at the repercussions of a woman being “turned away” from an abortion clinic.  According to released summaries of the study, participating clinics turned away about 1% of abortion seekers.

While the lack of a formal published study makes it difficult to do a full analysis, we do know a few details from press coverage, P.R. releases from the website, and conference presentation summaries.

Randall K. O'Bannon, Ph.D.

Randall K. O’Bannon, Ph.D.

When most people see results of a major national study touted in the news media, they assume that authors of the study are objective experts.  Well, the folks at UCSF are indeed experts when it comes to abortion, but they are far from objective.

If Planned Parenthood is America’s abortion chain and the Guttmacher Institute its source of statistics, then UCSF has long been the nation’s abortion training academy. 

As the NRL News has explained  before (see our report from 5/28/10), UCSF doctors were performing abortions back in the 1960s and quickly set about becoming a major abortion training center.   Early on, UCSF researchers took the lead in researching and teaching new abortion methods, experimenting not only with surgical techniques but also chemical methods using RU486 and methotrexate, the anti-cancer drug.

Many of the nation’s leading abortion advocates and pioneers can be traced back to UCSF, and current and former faculty members and graduates can be found in various research and policy centers around the country and scattered and throughout the government.  Regularly sought out and quoted by the mainstream media, UCSF faculty can be counted on to reassure the public of abortion’s safety and to advocate its expansion.

All this is obviously in play here. With stories in the news about women dying or injured from abortion, laws being passed ensuring women know of abortion’s risks, articles appearing in major journals linking abortion and depression, customer demand at a low and public support for abortion dropping, particularly for late abortions like those done by partial-birth abortion, the UCSF team shows up with a research project designed to show that women really are better off economically, physically, emotionally with abortion, even if those happen to be late abortions.

Their focus on women “turned away” from abortion clinics serves multiple purposes. 

First, it draws attention to a group of women that few people, perhaps even pro-lifers, know exists. To the casual observer, the easily anticipatable perception is that there are these women out there, desperate for abortions, and these meddling pro-lifers with their draconian laws, are preventing them from exercising their constitutional rights and getting the abortions they need. 

The reality is quite different. What we currently have in America is effectively a policy of abortion on demand, entially the full nine months of pregnancy, for any reason, and that clinics are usually the ones setting these limits because of lack of facilities, training, or desire, goes unmentioned.

The significant exception comes from laws enacted in seven states that protect unborn children capable of feeling pain from abortion. Abortion advocates are reluctant to challenge these laws in court, probably because they fear that a majority of the current Supreme Court would uphold them despite Roe.

This focus does, however, serve to erode resistance to later abortions and to provide the veneer of a medical rationale for their performance, a feature surely not lost on the UCSF team.

A second purpose is probably to push those abortion clinics to expand their limits, to increase their offerings, to convince them that–whatever misgivings they have about later abortions–women want them and are better off having them than having their babies.  It is, as we have seen in previous posts, a flimsy case. However for abortionists and clinic owners that don’t dig much deeper than the headlines or sound bites, it offers not just a rationalization, but also the potential for a new revenue stream.

As perhaps the nation’s top abortion training center and advocate for abortion education, UCSF also has a vested interest in the training of more doctors in later abortion techniques. Because the child is both bigger and more developed, with harder, less flexible bones, later abortions are riskier and more complicated, requiring more specialized surgical or medical skills. 

And where might they get such training?  Why, at one of the 58 Kenneth J. Ryan Residency Training Programs in Abortion and Family Planning around the country, of course, coordinated by the Bixby Center for Global Reproductive Health … of the University of California at San Francisco! 

UCSF’s aims are not simply national, though.  One explicit aim of the “turnaway” study is to aid in the push to pressure pro-life countries to drop their protective policies and legalize abortion (see www.ansirh.org/research/turnaway.php). 

One of the myths in which UCSF, Guttmacher, and a lot of their international pro-abortion allies are heavily invested is that legal abortion will help reduce maternal mortality rates, that women will be happier, healthier, materially if they can have abortions. Not surprisingly, this study enables them to push that myth.

The three previous parts to this series can be found at www.nationalrighttolifenews.org/news/2013/01/takeaways-from-the-ucsf-abortion-turnaway-study; www.nationalrighttolifenews.org/news/2013/01/takeaways-from-the-ucsf-abortion-turnaway-study-2; and http://www.nationalrighttolifenews.org/news/2013/01/takeaways-from-the-ucsf-abortion-turnaway-study-3/#more-20901

Turnaway Study,” report of the UCSF group doing the study, Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health website, at www.ansirh.org/research/turnaway.php , accessed 11/29/12.

Summaries of UCSF research team presentations on “Turnaway” study at American Public Health Association 140th annual meeting and expo, San Francisco, CA, October 27-31, 2012, apha.confex.com/apha/140am/webprogram/Session36974.html and    apha.confex.com/apha/140am/webprogram/Session36913.html, accessed 11/13/12

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