Thursday, August 03, 2006

Just the facts....please, the facts!


After six years as an activist and almost two years with the ACLU of PA, I've come to the conclusion that my biggest pet peeve in the dialogue around social issues is the use of misinformation. If you pay attention, this is certainly nothing new, but I have yet to figure out how to keep from being aggravated by this tactic. Sure, people can disagree. You think eating contests make for great television? Hey, go knock yourself out. But don't tell us that such contests are good for the digestive system and consistently draw more viewers than 60 Minutes.

Which brings us to The View, the much-maligned all-female morning show on ABC. (Aside: I've never really understood the fury of those who are anti-View. It's not high-quality television, but there are shows of a similar format out there that are worse (see: anything on Fox News) and don't draw nearly the ire that The View does. Why? Is it residual patriarchal feelings bubbling to the surface?)

Anyway, yesterday the topic of emergency contraception came up in light of the FDA's possible move to approve its availability over-the-counter to those over 18. When I started this entry, I thought I would explain why Ms. Hasselbeck gave misinformation to thousands of nationwide viewers but then realized that I could not convey the facts as well as Julie Petrella from the Duvall Reproductive Freedom Project. Here's what Julie said after I asked her what, exactly, the deal is with EC and how it works:
Yesterday, on ABC's The View, thousands of viewers were provided misleading information about emergency contraception (EC). Elisabeth Hasselbeck's emotionally-charged opinions dominated what was supposed to be a discussion about the FDA's failure to make a decision on whether or not to grant emergency contraceptive Plan B over-the-counter status. Contrary to the medical community's definition of pregnancy, Hasselbeck shares the anti-choice view that "life begins at conception." What's so frustrating about this non-scientific definition is that it is impossible to prove when conception actually occurs. And, what's even more frustrating about the debate over how EC works is that people who believe that "life begins at conception" focus on the very slim possibility that EC may inhibit a fertilized egg from implanting into a woman's uterus. This is only one of several ways in which scientists have hypothesized that EC works-it may delay ovulation, inhibit ovulation, inhibit fertilization, or inhibit the implantation of the fertilized egg. The exact way in which EC works really depends on where a woman is in her menstrual cycle.

Elisabeth's focus on how EC may prevent implantation is misleading because it is only one of the possible explanations of how EC prevents pregnancy. By not presenting the whole picture, she can then make her transition into saying that EC causes abortion-which it does not. Elisabeth, it's fine for you to share your view on The View. In fact, that's what you get paid to do. However, it's not okay for you to mislead viewers by leaving out information that does support that view, particularly on an extremely contentious issue. I hope that the co-hosts revisit this and allow time for the other women on the show to share their--hopefully more informed--perspectives.

And when this misinformation is out there in the ether, it emboldens those who would like to deny EC to those who need it, including victims of rape.

Andy in the HBG

5 Comments:

Anonymous Keanus said...

I'm completely with you on the issue of misinformation. I volunteer as an escort at a Planned Parenthood clinic and what really frosts me isn't that others oppose abortion but that they insist in trying to distribute literature that's full of falsehoods—yes, lies to be blunt—scream false assertions, and shout epithets that are insulting. One protester, out of the 100 or so I've encountered, actually agrees with me, but the vast bulk think lying is just fine, even after they're presented with contradicting evidence.

I also follow the evolution/intelligent design controversies on the web and elsewhere, and the evolution opponents are just as willful in their lying as well. At times I think they take as their standard our current president. In my 47 years as a registered voter, I've never seen lies occur in such abundance. It's depressing. Let's have some good old fashioned debate on the issues so we can arrive at some compromises

5:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, neither anti-abotion nor the creationist/ID crowds (and they probably have a large overlap) are interested in compromise.

They want to win at all costs.

7:55 PM  
Blogger Tired of Idiots said...

The typical method these people use is always incomplete and inaccurate information. Because the type of person who accepts this kind of information has already demonstrated a trend to not think and blindly accept what they're told, the misinformation gets circulated widely until it reachs the point when people feel that since everyone's heard it, it must be fact.

One of my favorite quotes: Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but NOT their own facts.

These people confuse facts with opinion and vice versa. I do NOT have to respect an idea if it's against fact. Period.

I understand the frustration. These people are SO close-minded that they will try to alter reality in order to meet their inaccurate beliefs.

Convictions are more dangerous than lies.

9:02 AM  
Blogger ACLU of Pennsylvania said...

What is it that Stephen Colbert says in his conservative alter ego? I'm not a fan of facts. They have a liberal bias. (Something like that.)

9:05 AM  
Blogger ACLU of Pennsylvania said...

Speaking of facts and misinformation, I am reminded of the movie An Inconvenient Truth. (Note: the ACLU of course has no position on the issue of global warming. Although after enduring this past week, this ACLU staffer certainly does.)

In the movie Gore talks about the fact that there are hundreds of peer-reviewed journal articles supporting the idea of global warming, and exactly zero on the other side. Yet the press keeps insisting on covering "both sides" of the issue. It reminded so much of the claims by the intelligent design advocates that there's a "controversy" about the concept of evolution in the scientific community. Unfortunately all too often the press promotes this fallacy in their well-intentioned but misguided attempts to be "balanced."

Sara in Philly

11:27 AM  

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