Religious misinformation, disinformation,
lies, darn lies, statistics, etc. on the Internet:
Part 1 of four parts
From religious & secular sources:
Introduction to misinformation.
An example: morning-after pills.
The menu for this section of our website discusses the types of misinformation provided by some of the religious media. We noted that:
- The good news is that these news sources don't usually issue direct lie.
However, some sources can be seen to warp the truth by:
- Providing only their own assessment of the topic while remaining
silent about alternate views.
- Ignoring contradictory evidence that shows their opinions to be
false, or at least suspect.
- Emphasizing part of the news, while simply not reporting other
- Explaining the news in a way that often leads a reader to assume
that something happened other than what really occurred.
- Reporting information from other news source's without prior fact checking.
To which we would like to add:
- Attempt to generate fear in the hearts of social and religious conservatives where none is warranted.
At the time that the initial version of this essay was written in mid-2012, we were well into the media hype related to the 2012-NOV elections. As in any major battle, truth is often the first fatality. Some sections of the religious media seems to be leading the way. A few examples follow.
Is the morning-after pill a form of abortion?
The "morning after" pill isn't what its name implies. A woman who has had unprotected sex and wants to avoid becoming pregnant can take the morning after pill immediately; she doesn't have to wait until the next morning. Also, this form of "emergency contraception" retains most of its effectiveness for 72 hours after sex. Thus, she can take it much later than the "morning after."
When the FDA originally approved the medication, there was no concensus among medical researchers about the mechanism(s) by which it worked. There was speculation that it might work:
- By inhibiting ovulation and/or
- By inhibiting conception if ovulation had ocurred, and/or
- By inhibiting the ability of the blastocyst -- the recently-fertilized ovum -- to implant itself in the inner wall of the uterus if conception had actually ocurred.
An article in the New York Times during 2012-JUN states that:
"Labels inside every box of morning-after pills, drugs widely used to prevent pregnancy after sex, say they may work by blocking fertilized eggs from implanting in a woman’s uterus. Respected medical authorities, including the National Institutes of Health and the Mayo Clinic, have said the same thing on their Web sites.
For example, one of the most common emergency contraceptives -- Plan B -- states on an information slip included with their medication:
"Plan B One-Step is believed to act as an emergency contraceptive principally by preventing ovulation or fertilization (by altering tubal transport of sperm and/or ova). In addition, it may inhibit implantation (by altering the endometrium). It is not effective once the process of implantation has begun." 1
Many conservative social and religious information sources emphasized the third possibility: that the pills allowed conception to take place, but caused the blastocyst to be rejected when it was unable to implant.
Medical authorities consider that pregnancy begins at implantation. Thus they agreed that the pill was a contraceptive and not an abortifacient, no matter by which of the three mechanisms it works. However most religious and social conservatives reject this definition, and promote the belief that pregnancy actually begins sometime during the process of conception. Thus many conservatives suggested that EC can act as an abortifacient by preventing implantation. Over time, many of them began to treat EC strictly as an abortifacient, making statements like:
Cybercast News Service (CNS):
"... all FDA-approved contraceptives include emergency contraceptives such as Plan B and Ella (Ulipristal), which do in fact cause the death of human embryos." 2
"Conservatives, religious leaders, and pro-life advocates denounced the Obama administration’s Health and Human Services (HHS) sterilization-contraception-abortifacient mandate on the eve of its effective date, charging that August 1 will go down in history as the day religious liberty came to an end in America." 3
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB):
"The drugs that Americans would be forced to subsidize under the new rule include Ella, which was approved by the FDA as an 'emergency contraceptive' but can act like the abortion drug RU-486. It can abort an established pregnancy weeks after conception." 4
(Emphasis in the above quotations by us).
Among the candidates for the presidency in 2012, Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum -- all Republicans -- have implied that EC acts as an abortifacient. 1
The quotation by the USCCB was an unexpected statement, because even from the earliest days of EC, medical researchers have been certain that once implantation had occurred, EC medication could never interrupt a pregnancy.
However, in the years following the approval of EC, medical researchers have learned that the medication prevents pregnancy only by preventing ovulation or conception. For example, the Emergency Contraception Website, at Princeton University and the Association of Reproductive Health Professionals state:
"There is no evidence to suggest that either of the FDA-approved emergency contraceptive options ... works after an egg is fertilized." 5
Still, many if not most conservative religious and social information sources state that EC does its work after an egg is fertilized, and regularly refer to it as an abortifacient.
More details on EC.
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
Pam Belluck, "Abortion qualms on morning-after pill may be unfounded," New York Times, 2012-JUN-05, at: http://www.nytimes.com/
Mat Cover, "Sebelius Claims 'No Abortifacient Drug' Covered by Contraception Mandate," CNS News, 2012-MAR-01, at: http://cnsnews.com
Elizabeth Harrington, "Aug. 1: Death knell for religious freedom say conservatives," CNS News, 2012-JUL-31, at: http://cnsnews.com/
"USCCB: HHS Mandate for Contraceptive and Abortifacient Drugs Violates Conscience Rights," United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, 2011-AUG-01, at: http://www.usccb.org/
"How emergency contraception works: How does emergency contraception prevent pregnancy?," Princeton University, at: http://ec.princeton.edu/
Copyright © 2012 to 2016by Ontario Consultants on Religious
Originally written: 2012-JUL-13
Latest update: 2016-JAN-25
Author: B.A. Robinson