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NY Times Offers a George Tiller Hagiography

John on July 29, 2009 at 10:10 am

David Barstow of the NY Times offers a complete picture of the life of late-term-abortionist George Tiller. At least it’s as complete as any hagiography can be.

If you’re interested in the literary gimmicks and emotional stagecraft that go into turning a man who killed unborn babies for a living into a secular saint, start with this excellent fisking at Get Religion. It’s the kind of thing that builds as it goes on. At first you think the criticism is extremely mild, but after they’ve gone through a portion of it, you really see what a shoddy piece of work this is.

I can’t improve on it except perhaps near the end. So click over and read it first and then come back. Eventually we get to these key paragraphs:

Since 1998, interviews and state statistics show, his clinic performed about 4,800 late-term abortions, at least 22 weeks into gestation, around the earliest point at which a fetus can survive outside the womb. At 22 weeks, the average fetus is 11 inches long, weighs a pound and is starting to respond to noise.

About 2,000 of these abortions involved fetuses that could not have survived outside the womb, either because they had catastrophic genetic defects or they were simply too small.

But the other 2,800 abortions involved viable fetuses. Some had serious but survivable abnormalities, like Down syndrome. Many were perfectly healthy.

Here I think is the one place where Get Religion’s Douglas LeBlanc is a bit too kind to Barstow’s piece. LeBlanc writes:

Good work on providing context for these 4,800 late-term abortions. Would it be helpful to provide statistics on how many abortions the clinic performed because of Down syndrome?

To be clear, I think LeBlanc has written a terrific response. But after wading through over 5,000 words of shamelessly biased hagiography, it’s not surprising that anything approaching even-handedness in Barstow’s piece seems like a breath of fresh air. But in fact, this may be the most biased part of the entire piece.

Opposition to Tiller has always been about late-term abortion. It’s a topic that deserves a lot more attention that these three paragraphs, at least it does if you want to understand anything about the people who oppose Tiller. What Barstow does here is to minimize and obfuscate what is at stake. This line is accurate as far as it goes:

At 22 weeks, the average fetus is 11 inches long, weighs a pound and is starting to respond to noise.

Barstow has chosen one particular milestone of development — responding to noise — seemingly at random. What he has left out, no doubt on purpose, is the fact that 22 weeks is also about the time fetuses show response to touch. More germane to the conversation at hand, 22 weeks is the time at which the “fetus” begins to experience pain. That little bit of information would have thrown an entirely different light on Tiller and his opponents.

Tiller killed 2,800 healthy, viable unborn babies since 1998, and it’s likely that most of them suffered an agonizing death at his hand. This is not a point to gloss over, at least not if you are interested in understanding the perfectly rational opposition to Tiller. Of course Barstow and the Times aren’t interested in that at all and it shows.

For the record, here’s a photo of a 21 1/2 week “fetus” looks like. [Note this child -- Kelly Thorman -- was born in 1971 and died of pneumonia 3 weeks later. However, survival rates for preemies have improved dramatically in the last 35 years.] Of course the Times didn’t see fit to include a picture like this to help explain what all the fuss was about. Wonder why that is?


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Category: Pro-Life |

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