Action Alert!

When the topic is abortion, the facts don’t matter?

By Phil Lawler (bio - articles - email) | Sep 07, 2018

On his Twitter feed, Father Alek Schrenk calls attention to an editor’s note, appended on an article in The Atlantic. The article, written by Moira Weigel and published early in 2017, scoffed at pro-lifers who advocate ultrasound exams for pregnant women. After its publication, this editor’s note appeared below the text:

This article originally stated that there is “no heart to speak of” in a 6-week-old fetus. In fact, the heart has already begun to form by that point in a pregnancy. The article also originally stated that an expectant mother participating in a study decided to carry her pregnancy to term even after learning that the fetus was suffering from a genetic disorder, when in fact the fetus was only at high risk for a genetic disorder. The article originally stated, as well, that Bernard Nathanson headed the National Right-to-Life Committee and became a born-again Christian. Nathanson was active in, but did not head the committee, and was never a born-again Christian, but rather a Roman Catholic. The article originally stated that many doctors in 1985 claimed fetuses had no reflexive responses to medical instruments at 12 weeks. Finally, the article originally stated that John Kasich vetoed a bill from Indiana’s legislature, instead of Ohio’s legislature, after which the article was incorrectly amended to state that Mike Pence had vetoed the bill. We regret the errors.

What an embarrassment for The Atlantic! Obviously an article so full of gross factual errors should never have been published. Why was it? Probably because the author’s arguments fit neatly with the editors’ preconceptions; they were disposed to believe her, not to call for scrupulous fact-checking. Now ask yourself: How likely is it that an article written from the pro-life perspective, but containing similar blunders, would pass through the editorial process unscathed?

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 CatholicCulture.org. See full bio.

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