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Friday, May 26, 2006

Journalisming is hard

So the wingnuts are up in arms about a new Planned Parenthood clinic opening up in Woodbury. I had heard this story earlier and dismissed it as sheer idiocy, but it seems to be sticking around. Apparently, these people have a problem with providing birth control and other health care services to women and men. There will be no abortions performed there, so that excuse is out. No, this time, they are protesting because of the birth control, such as the morning after pill. The group of protesters seems to include Senator Brian LeClair, so moderate suburbanites take note: LeClair is against birth control. It's have kids or no sex, I guess.

Typical reactions from the right-wing theocrats, to be sure. What makes me mad about the Pioneer Press story, though, has nothing to do with the protest itself. Instead, it is the shoddy journalism in the article, which passes on all attempts to educate people and reverts to the tired old he-said, she-said "balance" that passes for critical thought these days.

I am referring specifically to this quote from some pro-life protester: Kiolbasa said the morning-after pill is "a form of abortion, and we have a big problem with that." Elsewhere in the story, it says that "no abortions will be performed." What we are left with is a disconnect, two incompatible facts that the writer does nothing to clear up.

Say it with me, folks. Plan B Is. Not. An. Abortion. Like other forms of hormonal birth control, it prevents ovulation. If a woman who is pregnant takes the morning after pill, it will not terminate the pregnancy. For more information, see Pharyngula's excellent and detailed post on the subject.

Now, I don't expect the Pioneer Press to go into minute details about how Plan B works, but I do expect that Kiolbasa's blatant lie should be corrected. She is wrong. There are no ifs, ands, or buts about it. But the story makes it sound like it is some kind of difference of opinion.

These people say these things because they know that they can get away with it. Journalists have a pathological aversion to calling liars liars. "Nobody could have forseen that the levees would be breached", remember? "We know where the WMDs are", remember? They continue to get away with it because journalists don't call them on it.

What could have been written instead is something like "Kiolbasa said the morning-after pill is 'a form of abortion, and we have a big problem with that.' However, Plan B contraception is not an abortifacient like mifeprestone and does not terminate an existing pregnancy. Instead, if taken quickly enough, it can prevent ovulation." Then maybe the public would learn something and stop confusing Plan B with RU-486.

Perhaps it would be wise to contact the Pioneer Press or the writer of the article to share.

Oh, and keep this in mind: the far right is not only trying to do away with abortion. They want to do away with all birth control, as is becoming increasingly evident.

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