Aborting the facts
Writing about the partial-birth abortion ban act (“Partial birth ban wailers,” Commentary, Oct. 27), Michael Fumento wrote, “[T]he National Coalition of Abortion Providers back in 1997 estimated that the method was used 3,000 to 5,000 times annually; while a recent Alan Guttmacher Institute [AGI] survey indicates the number is steadily increasing.”
Mr. Fumento’s column drew a sharp response from AGI Vice President Beth Fredrick (“Tracking numbers,” Letters, Wednesday). AGI is affiliated with Planned Parenthood.
Ms. Fredrick said Mr. Fumento “misrepresents findings” of the AGI survey. She repeated the 1997 estimate by the abortion-providers group of 3,000 to 5,000 of what she called “dilation and extraction” abortions, but then noted that the AGI survey of abortion providers found that 2,200 were performed in the year 2000, “contrary to Mr. Fumento’s intimation that the number … was on the rise.”
Not so fast. Ms. Fredrick neglected to mention that AGI itself had conducted an earlier survey of abortion providers, and on that basis released (in 1998) a much ballyhooed estimate that only “about 650” such abortions had been performed nationwide during 1996.
This estimate of “about 650” was accepted as factual by news organizations for years and was steadfastly defended by AGI senior researcher Stanley Henshaw, who ran both studies.
“The numbers aren’t exact, but I’m pretty sure it’s in the 500 to 1,000 range,” Mr. Henshaw told the New York Times (Dec. 11, 1998).
Mr. Fumento may have reasonably inferred that because the same organization used the same question and the same methodology in two surveys four years apart and came up the second time with a figure more than triple the first, that “indicates the number is steadily increasing.”
However, one also could conclude that the original AGI figure of 650 for 1996 was absurdly low, an interpretation supported by other evidence — such as the fact that two abortionists reported elsewhere in 1996 that they performed 1,500 partial-birth abortions annually at a single abortion clinic.
Surely, even the more-than-tripled figure of 2,200 for the year 2000 is a bare minimum. Responses to AGI surveys are voluntary. The 2,200 figure is just a portion of an iceberg of unknown size.
That figure is a fraction of 1 percent of all abortions, as Ms. Fredrick noted. If a new virus was killing 2,200 premature babies annually in neonatal units, it would be on the TV evening news every week. Keep in mind, most partial-birth abortions are performed in the fifth and sixth months of pregnancy.
Ms. Fredrick also asserted that “there is no accepted medical definition for the term” partial-birth abortion. Check out the Merriam-Webster Medical Dictionary on the MedLine Web site, which is affiliated with the National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health, at www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/mplusdictionary.html. Partial-birth abortion is defined as “an abortion in the second or third trimester of pregnancy in which the death of the fetus is induced after it has passed partway through the birth canal.” The pseudo-medical term preferred by Ms. Fredrick, “dilation and extraction,” does not appear.
Why not just call it partial-birth abortion, Ms. Fredrick? The medical dictionary does. Besides, it’s the law.
National Right to Life Committee
The children of the future
Was it a coincidence that the magazine from Hephzibah Orphanage in Macon, Ga., slid off my pile of mail and landed in front of me as I read about four adopted youths found starving in a home in Collingswood, N.J. (“Children found starving,” American Scene, Oct. 28)? The same article recapped the discovery last year of the body of a 7-year-old boy found in a box in a Newark, N.J., basement.
Of course, New Jersey is in an uproar about this latest outrage — particularly in the wake of reports that the home where the four youths lived ostensibly had received 38 visits over the past two years by Division of Youth and Family Services caseworkers. No reports of anything amiss had been filed. When the four — aged 19, 14, 10 and 9 — were discovered recently scavenging for food in garbage cans, some of them weighed less than 50 pounds. The 19-year-old remains hospitalized in a cardiac unit.
When the dead boy was found last year, the state hired 366 new employees and furnished $30 million in additional “emergency aid.” It will be interesting to see if the welfare agency’s latest failure is rewarded by additional funding. If so, it will confirm the conventional wisdom that failure in government is rewarded with more funding, while success is punished with less.
I mentioned the Hephzibah Orphanage. Operated by the Wesleyan Church, it is a high-quality facility that has helped Georgia and indeed the entire country since 1900. Although founded to care for orphans, it also cares for abandoned and abused children and others who are wards of the state. A home for unwed mothers also serves those aged 12 to 24.
For assisting the state, Hephzibah receives some government funds, but most of its costs are met by private and church donations. My wife and I have supported its work for many years. The stories of productive citizens who got a good start in life at Hephzibah could fill a large anthology. I have read some of them. They would warm the hardest heart.
Hephzibah takes in every child it can of any race. It is accountable to the state and to its contributors for the care it provides. Children at Hephzibah don’t live in squalor or with crack addicts or at risk of violence. They are not abused and do not have to scavenge for food from garbage cans. The institution has starved no children and stuffed the bodies of none in boxes (and never will). Its work is a living example of Christian faith in action.
A realistic review of our entire approach to caring for orphans, abandoned children and foster children obviously is overdue. In a system where some people take on the care of children simply for the meager funds furnished by the state, something needs to change. New standards of accountability must be established and maintained.
If welfare workers are being paid on the basis of how many case-visit reports they make, some way must be devised to audit and verify the truth of those reports. It is unconscionable to permit greed — at both the caregiving and oversight levels — to endanger the lives of helpless children.
Places like Hephzibah actually know how to care for children. We need to help more of them do it.
ELWOOD E. ZIMMERMAN
Keep ‘yard signs in your yard’
Tricks and practical jokes notwithstanding, your article on yard signs failed to mention the dark side of campaign signs (“War of the yard signs goes down to the wire,” Metropolitan, Sunday).
As a Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) Adopt a Highway member, I would like to inform your readers (and campaign volunteers) that all signs are illegal on VDOT property and rights of way. They create a danger to VDOT workers and contractors. The metal frames and wood stakes are hazards to workers, commuters and pedestrians. Thousands of signs on rights of way create litter and visual pollution and endanger the public.
In the past month, members of Virginians Against Littering have removed more than 300 illegal signs, 90 percent of them campaign signs, on a 1.2-mile section of Glebe Road and Fairfax Drive in Arlington. The number of illegal signs out there is staggering; one would think politicians would be the first to obey the law.
Please put your “yard signs” in your yard, not on public property.
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