Associated Press Pressured Into Anti-Choice “Correction”?


The Associated Press appears to have caved into pressure from anti-choice activists, issuing an erroneous “correction” that sounds exactly like a line from the National Right To Life Committee media guide.

Lifenews.com brags about the change in language, stating:

All too often the pro-life movement is grossly misrepresented in the mainstream media. Pro-life advocates never expect, or even hope for, favorable coverage, but rather aspire just to be covered fairly. In a May 17th story on the DC Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, the Associated Press not only missed the mark on the purpose of the bill but printed blatant factual errors.

In fact, abortion is currently available on demand in the District of Columbia. In Roe vs. Wade and its companion case Doe vs. Bolton, the Supreme Court legalized abortion for any reason through all nine months of pregnancy.

But “in fact” abortion is not “available on demand in the District of Columbia… for any reason through all nine months of pregnancy.” 

The original story read:

In the district, abortion is legal before a fetus is considered viable outside the womb and after viability to protect the life or health of the mother. In 2004, the D.C. Council wiped an outdated criminal ban on abortions off the books. Anti-abortion activists have claimed that makes the city unusually permissive on abortion. District officials and abortion-rights supporters say the district law follows the precedent established by Roe v. Wade.

But the APcorrected” itself, stating:

In a May 17 story about a bill that would ban abortion in the District of Columbia after 20 weeks of pregnancy, The Associated Press, relying on information provided by district officials, erroneously reported that abortion of a viable fetus is legal in the district only to protect the life or health of the mother. Abortions for any reason are legal in the district.

Claiming that abortion is legal for any reason up until the moment of birth is a favorite talking point of the anti-choice movement. One of the “expert witnesses” at the 20-week ban claimed as much himself, despite the fact that under the Roe v Wade decision that simply isn’t the case at all.

If the AP was somehow “wrong” to rely on information from district officials, how is it a “correction” to use anti-choice activists’ false assertion that the law of the land includes abortions for any reason?

In D.C., an abortion post viability is allowable for the exact same reasons it is allowed under the established criteria in Roe v. Wade: life or health of the mother. But anti-choicers take the fact of the condition, “health of the mother,” which includes mental health exceptions, to claim that abortion is legal for “any reason up until birth.”  When the media repeats this, they perpetuate a falsehood, and also the notion that a pregnant woman or girl who needs an abortion for a reason that includes but is not limited to mental health — such as a later discovered anomaly, or dealing with a rape, is simply a frivolous “excuse.” 

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  • douglasjohnson

     

    I am not here to talk about the LifeNews.com story.  The guy who wrote that story brought in some issues that are really unrelated to the original Associated Press story or the correction.  I’m here to talk about the AP’s initial error, and its correction, and about the actual state of the abortion law in the District of Columbia.
     
    Unfortunately, Robin Marty makes essentially the same mistake that the AP made in its initial story.  Let’s see if she, too, will correct herself, once she takes a closer look.
     

    Marty writes, “In D.C., an abortion post-viability is allowable for the exact same reasons it is allowed under the established criteria in Roe v. Wade:  life or health of the mother.”  Let’s stop right there.  Marty has just made what used to be known as a “schoolboy error.”  (Are we still allowed to say that?)  She apparently slipped into thinking that Roe v. Wade itself imposed some affirmative limitations on abortion – by which I mean, some limits that are constitutionally required and that therefore, somehow, are in force everywhere.
     

    But that premise is entirely erroneous.  I am not aware of any attorney, on any side of the abortion issue, who has ever defended such an assertion.

    As far as I know (and I’ve done some reading on this subject), the U.S. Supreme Court has never held, in Roe v. Wade or any other ruling, that any legislative body is required to adopt a limitation on abortion, at any stage in pregnancy, with respect to any jurisdiction.  Roe v. Wade, Doe v. Bolton, all other abortion-related Supreme Court decisions deal entirely with what limitations on abortion the Supreme Court will permit state, local governments, or Congress to apply to abortion.

    (By the way, I am not discussing here, at all, what requirements or limitations with respect to abortion policy I personally think might be found the U.S. Constitution, if the Constitution were properly interpreted.  I am talking here only about what the Supreme Court has actually said and done on the subject.)

     
    Now, here is the point:  What the Supreme Court said about what limits it would allow governments to enforce, with respect to abortion, is simply irrelevant to the current legal situation in the District of Columbia.  That is because a local legislative entity known as the District Council repealed the entire abortion law. 

     
    We live under a legal system in which all things are lawful except those things that are prohibited by actual laws.  Therefore, it is now perfectly lawful, in the District of Columbia, to perform an abortion for any reason until the moment of birth.
     

    With that in mind, let’s look again at exactly what the AP said in its original May 17 story: “In the District, abortion is legal before a fetus is considered viable outside the womb and after viability to protect the life or health of the mother.”  That sentence can only be fairly read to mean that abortions in the District would be unlawful if performed after “viability” unless they are performed “to protect the life or health of the mother.”  
     

    Thus, if the original AP statement had been correct, it follows that if an abortionist walked into the prosecutor’s office with an affidavit, in which he swore that he had performed an abortion after viability that was not necessary “to protect the life or health of the mother,” he would have confessed to an act that was unlawful, and therefore would face arrest and/or other sanctions.  Moreover, if the original AP statement had been true, then NRLC would have been misinforming Congress in asserting, for example in NRLC’s May 14, 2012 letter to U.S. House members, “In the District of Columbia, abortion is now legal at any point up to the moment of birth, for any reason . . .” 

     
    But the AP statement was not true.  Therefore, NRLC challenged AP’s erroneous statement, AP spent some time investigating the matter, and AP properly ran a correction.

     
    I would like to underscore this:  The point I am making has nothing whatever to do with the meaning of the word “health” in  Roe v. Wade, Doe v. Bolton, or any other Supreme Court opinion.  It has also has nothing whatever to do with what “health of the mother” means when it appears in some abortion-related statute, or what “viability” means when the term appears in a statute.  Those are interesting and important questions to discuss in other contexts, but they are entirely irrelevant to the current legal situation in the District of Columbia — because there is no law that limits abortion to “health” cases, whether before or after viability, in the District.  The District Council repealed the only law.  See?
     

    Now, allow me to make a prediction, which I would love to see not come true:  Robin Marty might try to avoid the point here, to deflect attention away from her error. She might try to change the subject to discuss what self-imposed policies certain abortionists claim that they operate under with respect to gestational age, reasons, or whatever.  She might try to shift the discussion to what she thinks she knows about the current “availability” of abortion, at one point or another, in the District of Columbia.  These, too, are questions that might be worthy of exploring at another time — but they have nothing to do with the original error by the AP — or with the schoolboy error of Robin Marty, who imagined that there is a law, where there is no law.
     

    Douglas Johnson

    Legislative Director

    National Right to Life Committee

    Washington, District of Columbia

    federallegislation // at // nrlc, dot, org

     

     

  • douglasjohnson

    We again challenge Robin Marty to show everybody the mythical law that she says makes abortion legal in the District of Columbia, after “viability,” only to protect “life or health of the mother.”  We again assert that there is no such law.  We again assert that in the District of Columbia, abortion is currently legal, for any reason, until the moment of birth.

     

    Since the law that Robin Marty refers to does not exist, we again challenge her to withdraw her baseless charges against the Associated Press, and to admit that the AP was right when it issued its correction.

     

    Douglas Johnson

    Legislative Director

    National Right to Life Committee

    Washington, District of Columbia

     

     

  • colleen

    Mr Johnson,

     

    While I appreciate that you have a psychological need  to criticize, demean, discredit and shame women. Indeed that and lying shamelessly in order to achieve those ends and encouraging political violence from the sad little men and women who are stupid enough to believe what you have to say is how you support yourself) do you think you could take it elsewhere?

    The extra sock puppets don’t grant you any authority. Your title does not grant you any authority and your ugly personal beliefs don’t grant you any authority. Perhaps if you started your own blog you would attract people interested in what you have to say. Here you and your sock puppets and your hate and your lies and your need to dominate and demean women have no place.

     

  • robin-marty
    Your argument stems from the belief that a lack of a restriction means an unfettered access.  D.C.’s repealing of criminal abortion laws does not in effect make it unregulated and hence ‘available at any time for any reason.’ The absence of a restriction is not the same thing as the affirmation of a right. 

    There are laws that don’t exist because there have been no reason for them to be created. Standard care of the patient means that a doctor is not going to provide an abortion at 37 weeks “just because.”  D.C. doesn’t have to pass a law to make sure that doesn’t happen because that is implied in the over-arching RvW framework and in regard to medical ethics. Just like DC probably doesn’t have a law saying that a doctor can’t amputate a person’s limbs because he asks the doctor to — technically, a patient would have the right to look for and find a doctor to do it, but he won’t find it, and you aren’t going to make a law over it.

    Moreover, there is, as you *must* know, the so-called federal “Partial Birth Abortion Ban,” which though it addresses a procedure that is not medically recognized, nonetheless effectively obviates the need for state laws on late abortions that are not medically indicated.

    Thanks for your interest.
  • prochoiceferret

    The issue we are debating is whether abortion is legal in the District of Columbia, for any reason, until the moment of birth (which it is).

     

    Yes, you can get an abortion “for any reason, until the moment of birth” in D.C., just like you can get a leg amputated or your sex changed for any reason—until the moment that you realize that doctors actually follow medical standards of care, and won’t just perform any random surgery on you unless you have a good reason to receive it.

     

    Hey, there aren’t any laws restricting open-heart surgery. Maybe we should get a ban on the books before people start getting random heart operations just because they feel like it!

  • douglasjohnson

    I ended my initial comment on your essay with this observation:

    Now, allow me to make a prediction, which I would love to see not come true:  Robin Marty might try to avoid the point here, to deflect attention away from her error. She might try to change the subject to discuss what self-imposed policies certain abortionists claim that they operate under with respect to gestational age, reasons, or whatever.  She might try to shift the discussion to what she thinks she knows about the current “availability” of abortion, at one point or another, in the District of Columbia.  These, too, are questions that might be worthy of exploring at another time — but they have nothing to do with the original error by the AP — or with the schoolboy error of Robin Marty, who imagined that there is a law, where there is no law.  

    Alas, my prediction has been fulfilled.  Robin Marty now tries to slide away from her initial assertion that “in D.C., an abortion post-viability is allowable . . .” only under such-and-such conditions.  She harshly criticized the AP for saying, “Abortions for any reason are legal in the District.”  Now she implicitly admits that the AP was right, and she was wrong — but she doesn’t want to say so in so many words. She does not want just come out and say that the AP correction was right — abortion is “allowable” — perfectly legal — in the District of Columbia, for any reason, until the moment of birth.

    Rather than just admit that she was wrong about that, she shifts to unsupported assertions about what she imagines the “availability” of abortion is, post-viability, in the District of Columbia, and even what she imagines my “belief” is regading that question.  As I said earlier, the details of abortion practice in the District is a substantial subject that can be explored at the appropriate time, but it no relevance to the original AP error, to the AP correction, or to Robin Marty’s original attack on the AP.

    But, not content with such evasions, she digs herself in even deeper, with this statement: 

    Moreover, there is, as you *must* know, the so-called federal “Partial Birth Abortion Ban,” which though it addresses a procedure that is not medically recognized, nonetheless effectively obviates the need for state laws on late abortions that are not medically indicated.

    That statement is, I am afraid, utter nonsense.  The issue we are debating is whether abortion is legal in the District of Columbia, for any reason, until the moment of birth (which it is).  The Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act, as anyone can easily ascertain, places no limitation whatever on the reasons for which an abortion can be performed, at any point in pregnancy.  Rather, this federal law prohibits the use of the particular method of abortion, in which the living human is mostly delivered alive before being killed, either before or after viability, except to save the life of the mother.  The Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act does not restrict the use of any other method of abortion for any reason, at any point in pregnancy.  For example, it does not restrict the most common method used in the late second trimester, the “D&E” procedure, in which the limbs of the well-developed human are torn off one by one by brute force, using a long stainless steel tool known as a “Sopher clamp.”  Here is an ob-gyn explaining how he performed such abortions on many occasions:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t–MhKiaD7c&feature=youtu.be

     

    Douglas Johnson

    Legislative Director

    National Right to Life Committee

    Washington, D.C.

    http://www.nrlc.org

     

  • douglasjohnson

    ProChoiceFerret, thank you for your acknowledgement that abortion is indeed legal in the District of Columbia, for any reason, until the moment of birth.  You apparently grasp, as Robin Marty clearly did not when she wrote her ill-informed attack on the Associated Press correction, that neither Roe v. Wade nor any other Supreme Court decision ever imposed any affirmative limitation on abortion whatever.  The important question of what abortion limitations are ALLOWED under Roe, or under current Supreme Court doctrine, we can set aside for another day, since it is not really relevant to the matter under discussion here.

    You go on to suggest that doctors will not perform abortions, after some unspecified point in pregnancy, “unless you have a good reason to receive it.”  There are some physicians who do impose various limitations on themselves, beyond those required by law.  But there are also more than a few abortion practitioners for whom a “good reason” consists of only two elements:  (1) the woman wishes to have an abortion, and (2) the woman is able to pay the cost, which is considerable, up front (no checks accepted).  Such practitioners are sometimes interviewed regarding their open-door policies, and in most cases, he mouths the usual formulas about how it is not his place to second-guess the woman’s decision, the woman is the decision maker and he, the practitioner, is merely the instrument of her autonomy, and so forth. 

    Any number of examples could be cited, but here is one from the inventor of the partial-birth abortion method, the late Dr. James McMahon, who performed abortions into the ninth month.  He was interviewed by American Medical News in 1995, and he said:

    After 20 weeks [4-½ months] where it frankly is a child to me, I really agonize over it. … On the other hand, I have another position, which I think is superior in the hierarchy of questions, and that is:  ‘Who owns the child?’ It’s got to be the mother.” 

    The article is here:
    http://www.nrlc.org/abortion/pba/AmericanMedicalNews1993.pdf

    Whether or not they believe this stuff about unfettered autonomy, these practitioners know that there are a lot of people — like a lot of the people who write for this website — who will defend their right to operate in this fashion, and in fact will hold them up as champions of womens’ rights.  A physician who advertised and performed mutilations such as leg amputations could expect no such legions of advocates springing to his defense.  Nor would the demand for such procedures be sufficient to allow him to profit much in any case.  For these reasons, your analogy is not apt.

    As to “medical standards of care” — well, it is hard to know where to begin.  Let’s just say that there are more than few late abortion practitioners whose “standard of care” consists mostly of taking care to get that cash payment up front before they proceed.  Here are just three documents involving late abortion practitioners, issued in the fairly recent past by government entities in three different states — and there are a lot more documents like these out there, if you care to ferret them out.

    http://www.phila.gov/districtattorney/PDFs/GrandJuryWomensMedical.pdf

    http://www.mbp.state.md.us/BPQAPP/orders/D7121308.310.pdf

    http://www.doah.state.fl.us/ROS/2008/08004197.pdf

    Douglas Johnson

    Legislative Director

    National Right to Life Committee

    Washington, D.C.

    http://www.nrlc.org

  • julie-watkins

    You quote:

    After 20 weeks [4-½ months] where it frankly is a child to me, I really agonize over it. … On the other hand, I have another position, which I think is superior in the hierarchy of questions, and that is:  ‘Who owns the child?’ It’s got to be the mother.” 

    I think you quoted that because you believe “after 20 weeks [4-½ months] where it frankly is a child “, and you really really want things to change. However, I agree with the doctor that “it’s got to be” the woman. Otherwise, society would be treating pregnant women as public property. If a woman chooses (or is forced) to [attempt to] give birth (give life), that child (or stillbirth) will be made out of her own flesh and blood at great physical cost and risk, especially as compaired to the cost and risk of biological father and as compared to the cost and risk of the doctor and as compared to the non-existant cost and risk of politicians and strangers who might want to butt in. In other words, you quote that as if you think those words should prove something to me, … but they don’t change my opinion.

    As to “medical standards of care” — well, it is hard to know where to begin.  Let’s just say that there are more than few late abortion practitioners whose “standard of care” consists mostly of taking care to get that cash payment up front before they proceed. 

    Since we don’t have universal health care in USA, this kind of thing also happens in general hospitals, even emergency rooms (when someone seeking care isn’t in drastic enough medical crisis).

    I’m still a believer in Medical Standards. Did you know there aren’t abortion laws in Canada? They just have medical standards, and they don’t seem to have scandals like Gosnell in Canada. (I knew one of your links would be Gosnell, and yes it’s #1 of the 3.)

    From my point of view, people like Gosnell happen when abortion is pushed out of general OB-Gyn care and stigmatized, and access attacked by inappropriate legislation and harrassment.

    Every person who does abortions is not a Gosnell, nor are they common, or even a significant percentage. The more you try to legally restrict abortion, the more scandals like Gosnell are encouraged to happen. As I said above, I don’t think Gosnells happen in Canada.

  • julie-watkins

    [Mr. Johnson's] title does not grant you any authority and your ugly personal beliefs don’t grant you any authority. Perhaps if you started your own blog you would attract people interested in what you have to say. Here you and your sock puppets and your hate and your lies and your need to dominate and demean women have no place.

    I also think he should take it elsewhere.

    On the other hand, I have more examples to quote of clueless bullying. Why he thinks such attempted guilt trips would make me want to accept being a 2nd class citizen is beyond me. Where are the clue busses when you need them?

     

  • rebellious-grrl

    This guy reminds me of the anti-choice bullies that harass women outside clinics. I am so sick of their bull-pucky bullying. Rrrrrrrrrr.

    I would like to challenge him and all other anti-choicers to stay the hell out of my uterus.

  • prochoiceferret

    ProChoiceFerret, thank you for your acknowledgement that abortion is indeed legal in the District of Columbia, for any reason, until the moment of birth.

     

    And thank you for acknowledging that just because there isn’t a law against something, doesn’t mean you can do it willy-nilly.

     

    But there are also more than a few abortion practitioners for whom a “good reason” consists of only two elements:  (1) the woman wishes to have an abortion, and (2) the woman is able to pay the cost, which is considerable, up front (no checks accepted).  Such practitioners are sometimes interviewed regarding their open-door policies, and in most cases, he mouths the usual formulas about how it is not his place to second-guess the woman’s decision, the woman is the decision maker and he, the practitioner, is merely the instrument of her autonomy, and so forth.

     

    This is why we have medical review boards. Remember Dr. Kamrava, the IVF doctor who worked with Nadya Suleman? He lost his medical license. So much for not being in his place of instrumental autonomy.

     

    Whether or not they believe this stuff about unfettered autonomy, these practitioners know that there are a lot of people — like a lot of the people who write for this website — who will defend their right to operate in this fashion, and in fact will hold them up as champions of womens’ rights.

     

    What data do you have that shows practioners are performing late-term abortions without a good reason for the procedure? Do you understand that a late-term abortion is major surgery? Do you think very many people want to go to the expense and risk of major surgery absent an immediate need for it?

     

    A physician who advertised and performed mutilations such as leg amputations could expect no such legions of advocates springing to his defense.  Nor would the demand for such procedures be sufficient to allow him to profit much in any case.  For these reasons, your analogy is not apt.

     

    Any medical practitioner who performs abortions solely for profit, without regard for the patients’ health and well-being, is not going to have many advocates springing to his/her defense. No one here was rooting for Kermit Gosnell. And profitability, or lack thereof, is irrelevant in the eyes of a medical review board. My analogy is a heck of a lot apt-er than your reasoning.

     

    As to “medical standards of care” — well, it is hard to know where to begin.  Let’s just say that there are more than few late abortion practitioners whose “standard of care” consists mostly of taking care to get that cash payment up front before they proceed. Here are just three documents involving late abortion practitioners, issued in the fairly recent past by government entities in three different states — and there are a lot more documents like these out there, if you care to ferret them out.

     

    Your documents cover

    * Dr. Kermit Gosnell, who was given no succor here;

    * Dr. Nicola Riley violating medical licensing regulations;

    * Dr. James Pendergraft violating drug and medical regulations.

     

    I’d be happy to ferret out a lot more documents that show that medical regulations work, and legislative prohibitions are unnecessary. But then you’ll just claim that they, too, illustrate why such laws are necessary, even though a quick reading of them shows that they actually indicate the opposite.

  • julie-watkins

    Thanks, I’m putting this in my reference file.