Action Alert!

A subtle but powerful pro-life argument presented in (!) the New York Times

By Phil Lawler (bio - articles - email) | Jan 22, 2013

Today’s New York Times carries a stunning op-ed piece by Chuck Donovan on abortion statistics. I say it’s “stunning” for two different reasons, which apply to two different categories of readers.

Some readers will be stunned to learn that the federal government does not maintain reliable statistics on abortion. Donovan begins his column by suggesting that while Americans are severely divided on the abortion issue, there should be one point on which all reasonable people agree:

… wherever we stand on the issue, we ought to have access to high-quality, up-to-date information on how many women in each state are undergoing the procedure, by what method, at what stage of pregnancy and how many times... Americans should insist that abortion statistics be comprehensively gathered, rapidly totaled and assessed, and reliably published by a publicly accountable body.

How can anyone disagree with that point? How can anyone argue against collecting scientific data, against making informed decisions on an important public-policy issue?

But the truth is that many people, especially abortion advocates, don’t want to collect data because they don’t want to uncover the ugly realities of abortion. Donovan is actually making a subtle but powerful argument for informed consent—for the notion that we as a nation, as well as individuals, should know the facts before we make decisions about abortion.

Which brings me to the 2nd stunning thing about Donovan’s column. Readers who have been following the abortion issue carefully were already familiar with his arguments. What was stunning was to see those arguments presented on the pages of the New York Times.

Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at See full bio.

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