Editor’s note. This editorial appears on page 2 of the December edition of National Right to Life News. The response thus far to the issue has been outstanding. Please forward stories to your pro-life family and friends. Also, please send me any comments about this or any other content at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Increasingly, “Fact checkers” are a dime a dozen. Some, such as Snopes, are absurdly biased and, beyond that, incapable of understanding irony and satire. This is why they occasionally “fact check” the Babylonian Bee, which is (as it is often described) a hilariously funny Christian version of The Onion.
Sometimes the judgement of the Washington Post’s Factcheckers is highly questionable(to be polite). Sometimes, ironically enough when addressing the abortion issue, Glenn Kessler and Michelle Ye Hee Lee can produce first-rate work. Why ironic? The Post is up to its institutional eyeballs in promoting abortion.
This past week Kessler produced what he described as “our annual roundup of the biggest Pinocchios of the year.” Pinocchios refer to how deceptive an assertion is, with four Pinocchios representing the highest degree of distortion. Three Pinocchios means (according to the Post) that a statement has “Significant factual error and/or obvious contradictions.” …
Although Kessler tells us there is “no particular order” to the examples, lo and behold after the pro-forma, obligatory thrice thrashing of President Trump, Kessler goes directly to “Thousands of women died every year pre-Roe,” an assertion from then PPFA President Dr. Leana Wen.
Briefly, Kessler tells us, “We dug through the statistics and it turns out she was citing numbers from the 1930s, before the advent of antibiotics. In 1972, the number of deaths in the United States from legal abortions was 24 and from illegal abortions 39, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.”
This is good, although there is much, much more.
*Kessler doesn’t list how many Pinocchios for any of the Top Ten, but Wen’s assertion drew the maximum—four.
*As Kessler said at the time of the original critique, “The problem with Wen’s claim is that is derived from data that is decades old.” In truth, as Kessler was too kind to point out directly, the claim was based on data that was inadequate when it was accumulated and patently absurd in retrospect.
*Wen peddled this nonsense not once, but three times.
*In explaining his “Four Pinocchios” [“whopper” status] designation Kessler concluded “Wen is a doctor, and the ACOG is made up of doctors. They should know better than to peddle statistics based on data that predates the advent of antibiotics. Even given the fuzzy nature of the data and estimates, there is no evidence that in the years immediately preceding the Supreme Court’s decision, thousands of women died every year in the United States from illegal abortions.” Finally
*Another huge irony. In his Top Ten list, Kessler cites a New York Times story in which Planned Parenthood was busy explaining away why they had lopped off Wen’s head after less than a year. In that story, after reporters Sarah Kliff and Shane Goldmacher cite Kessler’s conclusion that the assertion was false, they write that this was something ”a former employee said she had been told repeatedly by her staff but disregarded.”
Does that pass the smell test? Nope.
More significant, Planned Parenthood and truth are rarely ever mentioned in the same sentence. A headline that ran over a column that appeared in The Washington Post in August 2015, written by Michelle Ye Hee Lee, we learn “For Planned Parenthood abortion stats, ‘3 percent’ and ’94 percent’ are both misleading.” PPFA received three Pinocchios but easily could have earned four.
Kessler concluded his original critique with this:
[A]dvocates hurt their cause when they use figures that do not withstand scrutiny. These numbers were debunked in 1969 — 50 years ago — by a statistician celebrated by Planned Parenthood. There’s no reason to use them today.
To which I would add something much stronger. These people are shameless.