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The New York Times used an undercover journalist to investigate the abortion industry. Here’s what they found

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In 1871, Augustus St. Clair of the New York Times was assigned a task. His objective was to infiltrate the illicit underground abortion industry and investigate instances of medical malpractice.

St. Clair and a female companion assumed the role of a couple seeking an abortion. The findings of St. Clair’s investigation were published in an editorial series entitled “The Evil of the Age.”

In his investigative coverage, St. Clair wrote:

It is estimated that thousands of human beings are thus murdered before they have seen the light of this world, and thousands upon thousands more of adults are irremediably ruined in constitution, health and happiness. The clandestine nature of these crimes and the deceptive tactics employed by perpetrators render it challenging to obtain evidence and witnesses.

He further posited that, were even a portion of the abhorrent facts to be revealed, the reader would recoil from the appalling picture.

This narrative is strikingly analogous to the contemporary situation, in which the reprehensible and abhorrent nature of the abortion industry is persistently illuminated by the efforts of undercover investigators such as David Daleiden of the Center for Medical Progress, as well as in the testimonies, reports, and instances of unsafe and unsanitary conditions in abortion facilities.

St. Clair goes on to assert that there is a systematic business in the wholesale murder of unborn children conducted by men and women in this city that is seldom detected, rarely interfered with, and scarcely ever punished by law.

This phenomenon also appears to be analogous to the contemporary focus on Daleiden and his organization, rather than addressing the malevolence perpetrated by Planned Parenthood.

It is instructive to consider a letter to the New York Times editor in response to St. Clair’s initial article in his series.

It is imperative that public opinion be reversed. From time to time, a voice of warning has been raised in the pulpit, while the press has intermittently published brief articles on the subject. However, the resistance has been sporadic, and the problem has persisted rather than abated. A complete revolution of society is required. The issue of women’s rights is not yet fully understood. We call upon all women, regardless of their intellectual capacity or social status, to unite in the struggle against the injustices faced by women and to advocate for their rights in a just and equitable manner.

It is notable that, as the letter progresses, it becomes evident that, even in the late 1800s, it was understood that, rather than representing the advancement of women’s rights, abortion represented the accommodation and liberalisation of irresponsible men.

The writer posited that abortion liberated a man who sought uninhibited sexual encounters from the concern of potential consequences and responsibilities. The abortion industry, in all its forms, has consistently trained men to view women as objects for one-night stands.

St. Clair’s series also examined the financial infrastructure supporting abortion clinics, challenging the notion that these facilities were clandestine operations. Even in 1871, these facilities were furnished with elegant decorations, expensive mahogany furniture, and fine tapestry carpets.

While the legalisation of abortion – and the 145 years in between – has not led to an improvement in the standard of care inside these clinics, St. Clair captured the familiar helplessness of the clients, masked with their secret shame.

What, then, has changed—in substance—in the 145 years between St. Clair’s New York Times series and the present day? One clear indication of this is the role of the media.

Despite the exposure of Kermit Gosnell’s abortion enterprise as the “House of Horrors” in West Philadelphia in 2011, leading to a murder trial and conviction in 2013, there has been minimal coverage by the mainstream media.

Furthermore, the case of Gosnell is not an isolated incident. The media has demonstrated a tendency to ignore the significant risks associated with abortion clinics, particularly the potential for harm to women seeking abortions and the inherent dangers posed to unborn children.

The contemporary media’s reluctance to portray the abortion industry in a negative light, despite the abundance of evidence to the contrary, has been particularly evident in the case of Daleiden. Daleiden and the CMP’s investigation revealed the truth about unethical practices within the abortion industry. However, the investigators themselves have been portrayed as malevolent figures.

It is worth considering whether the media’s condemnation of Daleiden is motivated by a subtle resentment of a true muckraker, as evidenced by their treatment of him.

St. Clair demonstrated unwavering resolve in the face of adversity. The abortion industry is a significant and lucrative enterprise, and St. Clair was compelled to decline bribes and to disregard death threats in order to disseminate the information he had uncovered. However, his willingness to take risks to his career, reputation and life for his commitment to the sanctity of life prompted a re-evaluation of the exploitation of women and the horrors of abortion in the United States.

Despite the passage of 145 years, the imperative to remain steadfast remains.


Daniel Miller is responsible for nearly all of National Right to Life News' political writing.

With the election of Donald Trump to the U.S. presidency, Daniel Miller developed a deep obsession with U.S. politics that has never let go of the political scientist. Whether it's the election of Joe Biden, the midterm elections in Congress, the abortion rights debate in the Supreme Court or the mudslinging in the primaries - Daniel Miller is happy to stay up late for you.

Daniel was born and raised in New York. After living in China, working for a news agency and another stint at a major news network, he now lives in Arizona with his two daughters.

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