Newsweek Runs Nice Cover, But Misleading Story on Abortion


Late last month Newsweek ran a cover story on “America’s Abortion Wars.” Newsweek deserves some credit for highlighting the issue and for their great choice of a cover photo.

Indeed, the graphic color photo of an unborn child in utero was eye-catching and made a compelling case for the humanity of the unborn. Unfortunately, the rest of the article was a disappointment.

In the beginning of the article, the author, Kurt Eichenwald, attempts to position himself as a moderate. He says that he is opposed to abortion. He acknowledges the arguments made by pro-lifers about the humanity of the unborn are reasonable. He states that answers will never come from activists and says it is up to the rational middle to bring this war to an end.

Unfortunately, the article promptly takes a turn for the worse. Amazingly, Eichenwald manages to include nearly every discredited or misleading statistic cited by supporters of legal abortion during the past 40 years.

For instance, even though a number of respected embryologists have testified that the unborn can feel pain at 20 weeks, Eichenwald flatly states that unborn children at 22 weeks cannot feel pain. He assumes that Planned Parenthood’s contraception programs stop abortions, even though a substantial body of academic research shows programs designed to encourage contraceptive use are ineffective at best and counterproductive at worst.

It gets even worse.

Eichenwald uncritically recites claims that giving birth poses greater health risks than obtaining an abortion. However, U.S. health surveillance on abortion injuries is very weak and many analyses fail to consider the negative long-term health consequences of abortion.

Overall, it is clear that Eichenwald does not view pro-lifers as credible. He states that abortion opponents “have grown accustomed to lying in order to advance policies or block abortions.” Unsurprisingly, he makes no such claims about activists who support legal abortion.

However, the worst part of the article is when Eichenwald repeats the discredited argument that pro-life laws will not stop abortions. He states that the number of lives lost to abortion would be no lower had abortion remained illegal. This just simply defies logic and common sense. In 1974, the first full year when abortion was legal in all 50 states, there were nearly 900,000 abortions performed according to the Guttmacher Institute. By 1980 that number had increased by 66 percent to over 1.5 million.

Indeed, when abortion becomes legal, there are many factors that explain why abortion rates increase. Access to abortion becomes easier, sexual mores change, and attitudes toward abortion typically shift. Other countries that have legalized abortion have also seen dramatic increases in their abortion rates. Overall, there is also a significant body of academic research which shows that the incidence of abortion is affected by its legal status. There is also research which shows that incremental pro-life laws — including public-funding restrictions, parental-involvement laws, and properly designed informed-consent laws — all lower the incidence of abortion.

Eichenwald does not stop there. He doubles down and attempts to use Texas’s HB 2 as an example of the ineffectiveness of pro-life laws. HB 2 attempts to improve women’s health by requiring abortion facilities to have a doctor on staff with admitting privileges at a local hospital. It also requires abortion clinics to meet state standards for ambulatory surgical centers. Since HB 2 went into effect in 2013 over half of the abortion facilities in Texas have closed. Eichenwald cites a recent Texas Policy Evaluation Project (TxPEP) study to claim that HB 2 has led to a sharp increase in self-induced abortions among Texas women.

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SOURCE: National Review
Michael J. New is a Visiting Associate Professor at Ave Maria University and an associate scholar at the Charlotte Lozier Institute. Follow him on Twitter @Michael_J_New