Remember last week when videos from 208 surfaced that showed Rep. Todd Akin indulging in still one more of those characteristic statements that manage to excite horror and laughter at the same time? I’m referring to his statement that evil abortion doctors give abortions to women who aren’t pregnant.
In spite of the ridicule that this statement excited, Akin held firm. He even tried to substantiate what I am sure he truly believes by referencing a lengthy report printed in the Chicago Sun-Times in 1978 that exposed two criminally incompetent abortion doctors as well as some unethical abortion referral services. One doctors was arrested, two clinics were closed down, and new regulations were enacted to bring Illinois abortion clinics into conformity with the standards imposed on other, comparable, health service providers. If the story proves anything, it shows the risks of unregulated capitalism (or what Todd Akin calls “freedom”).
Since these findings are old news, they don’t do much to bolster Akin’s story. Nor could his staff initially reference any more recent examples. Also, the Center of Disease Control (CDC) statistics tell a totally different story. So naturally, Akin’s spokesperson, Rick Tyler, did what any self-respecting conservative does – he denied the validity of evidence that contradicts his preferences, in this case, the CDC statistics:
Asked if Akin thinks unnecessary abortion procedures are still a major problem, Tyler said, “Who would know? No one reports on it anymore.”
“That’s a war on women that never gets reported,” he continued. He added, “I don’t want Todd to be held to some standard because there’s no accurate reporting on abortion, because there isn’t.”
However, Akin did finally get some more substantial help making his case:
In a statement on Wednesday, Abby Johnson, who served as a director for Planned Parenthood in Texas from 2007-2009, said her organization often coerced women into unnecessary services to make more money.
“When I served as director of Planned Parenthood in Bryan, Texas, we often scared women into getting services they did not need – including abortion – so we could collect the fees,” she said. “This included women who were not pregnant and women who were in the process of miscarrying.”
The problem with this witness, however, is that not only can she not document her charges, but her story has been very authoritatively debunked – although that hasn’t inspired the anti-abortion movement to treat her claims with any skepticism. The evidence suggests that Johnson left her job under duress rather than as a result of a change of heart, and available evidence contradicts almost all of her claims.
What’s really interesting about Akin’s statement and his jerry-rigged “proof” is that it focuses attention on what is just the tip of an iceberg of misinformation about abortion that the anti-abortion right stubbornly refuses to abandon. Medically discredited claims that abortion frequently results in death, cancer, psychological problems, sterility and more are a matter of rabid faith in the anti-choice community. What these claims all have in common is that they let anti-abortion activists feel like they’re on the side of the angels; they can justify their actions as compatible with concern for women as well as for semi-developed fetal life, which is especially convenient when opposing dedicated, pro-choice feminists – notice Rick Tyler’s effort to hijack the “war on women” meme in his statement above?
Ironically, the only recent case in which an abortion doctor has lived up to the picture painted by Akin (although there was no claim of giving abortions to women who were not pregnant) is that of Dr. Kermit Gosnell, a “women’s health” clinic operator in West Philadelphia who has been charged with murder. It is possible to argue that Dr. Gosnell, a true abortion profiteer, could only thrive because of the restrictions that have been imposed on abortion and the effect that they have had on desperate, poor women. Given the Hyde Amendment’s prohibition of Medicare funding for abortions, many of these women have no option except to cross their fingers and go to the guy, like Gosnell, offering a cut-rate procedure :
According to a 2006 study by the Women’s Medical Fund, there were 4,500 women covered by Medicaid in the five-county Philadelphia area who wanted to terminate a pregnancy and could not afford to. Making things all the more difficult, most health-care providers do not perform abortions.
This was like a pre-Roe v. Wade clinic,” Schewel says. “And I think that as abortion access becomes narrower and narrower and more and more limited, there will be more and more of these types of providers”
And when this comes to pass, I’m sure that Brother Todd and the folks for whom he speaks will still sleep the sleep of the righteous. After all, they will have worked so hard to save all those women from safe, affordable abortion.