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the Body Politic
Vol. 6, No. 10 - October/November 1996, Page 6
Copyright © 1995, 1997 by the Body Politic Inc.
Making Mountains Out of a Pebble
by Anne Bower
With much fanfare, Mark Crutcher of Life Dynamics, Inc. released this year his long-awaited indictment of the abortion industry, Lime 5, a book that, rather than "blowing the lid" off abortion, is a statistical stamp of approval for the nation's providers.
"After more than twenty years of legalization, they have yet to even approach minimal safety standards, and American women are being butchered because of it."
How could all this be happening and the American public be unaware? Simple, says Mark Crutcher. It's all a giant cover-up -- a new Area 51 -- a conspiracy between the abortion industry, state and local governments, doctors, the Center for Disease Control, and of course, the ever popular villains, the media.
Of course, Mr. Crutcher does not see it that way. In his mind, Lime 5, with its catalog of disturbing incidents of sub-standard medical care combined with conspiracy theories worthy of The X-Files, proves that all doctors are scum and thousands of women die each year from abortion- related complication.
However, a careful reading of this document, especially with an eye to fundamental mathematics and with concern for accurate reporting of medical incidents, reveals that Lime 5 more than supports the fact that legal abortion is safe abortion and the majority of practitioners and clinics provide appropriate medical care.
In this article I plan, in the interest of brevity, on reviewing Lime 5, concentrating my time on the more sensational part -- the cases cited -- with a little time for Mr. Crutcher's conspiracy theories of a cover-up involving doctors, state government, the Center for Disease Control and the ever popular media.
Setting the StageIn Lime 5, Mr. Crutcher questions all statistics on abortion released by the Center for Disease Control because some of those at the CDC are OB/Gyns -- some of whom provide abortions. To Mr. Crutcher's way of thinking, these doctors could not be objective or neutral when reporting on abortion. If that premise holds true, it behooves me to discuss Mr. Crutcher's "neutrality" on the issue of abortion, using as evidence past literature from his organization, Life Dynamics.
Incorporated in Texas in 1992 as a not-for-profit, LDI wasted no time attacking providers. Mr. Crutcher's first project was The 800 Club, a possible pun on Pat Robertson's 700 Club program. The 800 Club distributed a list of 800 numbers offered as a service by clinics to their patients. The stated purpose of the club was to offer pro-lifers the opportunity of "harassing these abortionists, or creating what might be called an 'electronic rescue'." With typical weasel-wording, Mr. Crutcher denied compiling the list to harass doctors but to offer the pro-life community the opportunity to call clinics to express an opinion about what they do or encourage them to emphasis adoption over abortion.
As a cautionary note, at the bottom of The 800 Club flyer, Mr. Crutcher mentioned that businesses get an "activity report" each month allowing them to identify anyone who calls repeatedly. He then helpfully adds with a smirk, "This would not apply to calls made from pay phones." In 1993, Mr. Crutcher claimed in his newsletter that over 75,000 copies of The 800 Club had been distributed. The consequences were, some clinics were forced to discontinue this service probably because of abuse orchestrated by LDI.
Project Choice -- NOT!Barely catching his breath after launching The 800 Club, Mr Crutcher next hatched Project Choice, a survey of abortion providers that doctors thought was being circulated by legitimate researchers who would use the information in an appropriate fashion. Instead the survey results have been used to stigmatize abortion providers as neurotic misfits shunned by the medical community.
Mr. Crutcher's deception was exposed in April 1993 in an article in The Wichita Eagle, written by reporter Judy Lundstrom Thomas. Freely admitting the ruse of the creation of Project Choice, Mr. Crutcher said, "This is a war. We can't come into this thing and play by a bunch of rules that we think should exist ... if these people knew we were pro-life they wouldn't talk to us." When asked by Ms. Thomas if he felt guilty about his ruse, Mr. Crutcher replied, "Not one bit. I mean, we're talking baby killers here."
Bottom Feeder, Indeed!With the exposing of the Project Choice scam, one might think they had plumbed the depths of Mr.
Crutcher. Then came the nadir of yellow journalism, Bottom Feeder, a crudely illustrated tawdry pamphlet filled with recycled lawyer and moron jokes that was mailed around the country -- many to medical students. The underlying tone of contempt and hatred for abortion providers exemplified by Bottom Feeder became all the more sinister because 1993 was the year the first doctor, David Gunn, was shot down in cold-blood.
A "Joke" from Bottom Feeder
Besides these cheap pamphlets, Mr. Crutcher also sent out more sophisticated mailings of large postcards warning doctors what awaited them if they choose to provide abortions. It is believed that virtually tens of thousands of these post cards were mailed, leaving the pro-choice community puzzling where Mr. Crutcher gets his mailing budget for this and all his other projects.
Other OpusesNever content to rest on his laurels, Mark Crutcher and LDI produced two other works, Abortion Malpractice, written by David Reardon, a how-to-sue-a-doctor kit sent to many lawyers around the country, and Firestorm, authored by Mr. Crutcher. The slick 73 page Abortion Malpractice workbook was accompanied by a 10-minute promotional video (Mr. Crutcher was previously in advertising) telling lawyers that doctors who perform abortions are the "least skilled" of their profession and hinting thar is gold in them thar abortion malpractice hills.
Firestorm, Mr. Crutcher's magnum opus, is reviewed by provider Patricia Baird Windle beginning on page 11 [the Body Politic, October/November 1996]. Suffice it to say that its intent is to prevent doctors from being able to provide abortion, thereby rendering the legality of choice, moot.
Lime 5 -- The Latest AttackIn January 1996, after compiling data from hundreds of "Spies for Life" who had been digging frantically through every newspaper for references to possible deaths from abortion (legal or otherwise), Mr. Crutcher unveiled Lime 5, the book that was supposed to destroy the abortion industry. Nine months later, abortion is still legal and women are still seeking it daily. With the exception of an advert for the book in Working Woman magazine, little has been made of this ridiculous document. However, that is not to say Lime 5's assertions, half truths and outrageous allegations do not deserve a response.
Mr. Crutcher's misrepresentation begins immediately in the Introduction when he characterizes Life Dynamics as "an organization that provides litigation support to malpractice attorneys who sue on behalf of women who have been killed, injured, or sexually assaulted during an abortion". There is no mention of this Statement of Position in LDI's newsletter,"Life Dynamics is dedicated to the proposition that no action should be lawful if its intention is to take the life of an innocent human being. Therefore, induced abortions should be illegal under all circumstances and at every stage of pregnancy."With such a viewpoint, Mr. Crutcher's lens of objectivity is apt to be a tad off-focus.
In the Acknowledgments, Mr. Crutcher claims that information for Lime 5 was provided by more than 200 individuals and culled from hundreds of public documents. What he does not say, is many of those documents were nothing more than newspaper accounts, some dredged up from 30 years ago -- not appropriate evidence for legal action.
The X-Files -- continuedIn Lime 5's first chapter, Safe and Legal, Mr. Crutcher promises a "sobering look at the price American women have been forced to pay for 'the right to choose'". His immediate conclusion of legal abortion is, "After more than twenty years of legalization, they have yet to even approach minimal safety standards, and American women are being butchered because of it."
How, you might ask, could all this be happening and the American public be unaware? Simple, says Mark Crutcher. It's all a giant cover-up -- a new Area 51 -- a conspiracy between the abortion industry, state and local governments, doctors, the Center for Disease Control, and of course, the ever popular villains, the media. Using this fantasy as cover, Mr. Crutcher first excuses his book for the lack of hard data on women injured or killed by abortion because of the "limited experience at medical research and a relatively tiny budget" he had at to work with.
Second, whimpers Mr. Crutcher, no one would cooperate with LDI -- especially the CDC who he takes to task for keeping terrible statistics on abortion, a clear sign of their complicity in the cover-up. Apparently Mr. Crutcher is unaware that President Bush is more to blame for the paucity of abortion statistics than the CDC. It was during his administration that the keeping of those statistics was discontinued, probably because the statistics consistently showed abortion was a medically safe procedure -- politically incorrect numbers during his administration. When it comes to conspiracy theories, is it possible that Mr. Crutcher has spent too much time watching X-Files reruns?
The third excuse for lack of documented evidence in Lime 5 is the claim that lawyers do not want to talk about cases in progress, resulting in the few number of cases reported from the late 1980s on. Mr. Crutcher also asserts that few women will file a case, anyway.
To those who counter these arguments that there are many statistics showing abortion is safe, Mr. Crutcher responds, "Anytime you see a statistical chart about abortion injury, sexual assault, or death, the person who compiled that chart is either very misinformed or is lying." Take that, State Health Departments, Alan Guttmacher Institute, and the CDC, liars all.
The final weasel argument about abortion being unsafe is based on the quaint and ridiculous notion that women who have abortions are all in the peak of health and should therefore suffer no complications. (Others who seek surgery are all sick or injured so you might expect complications). With total disregard for reality, Mr. Crutcher purrs, "In fact, it has often been observed that a woman is never more healthy in her life than when she is pregnant." There is no mention anywhere of the complications from full-term pregnancy and delivery.
The Hard CasesAfter this introduction which basically says there is no such thing as a safe abortion, Mr. Crutcher begins the chronicle of injuries attributed to abortion. For the next 60 pages he lists categories of injuries, such as Injuries to the Uterus, Injuries to the Cervix, Injuries to the Intestines/Bowels, all the way to Amputation, Aspirated Vomitus, Unauthorized Sterilization, Masking of Ectopic Pregnancy, and Failed Abortion -- Baby Survives. Ignoring the fact that a few of these injuries do not fit what everyone would see as consequences from an abortion, in total, Lime 5, lists 262 injuries of which 122 women tragically died.
What is to be made of this sad list? A little mathematics puts things in perspective. Over the past twenty-three years that Roe has been in effect, there have been about 35 million abortions. Rounding up Mr. Crutcher's number of cases to 300, we get less than one case in one-hundred-thousand that resulted in injury or death. Suppose we choose to play with numbers like Mr. Crutcher and give LDI the benefit of the doubt, agreeing they were unable, for whatever reason, to document most of the serious sequelae of abortion. Giving him an incredibly generous factor of 10, which would make 3,000 cases of serious injury over 23 years, that figure still represents less than one case in ten-thousand of all the abortions performed -- hardly an indictment of the safety of the procedure. Note: When computing the figures of Lime 5 I considered making a chart, since they can easily convey information. It quickly became obvious that there wasn't a piece of paper big enough to illustrate the contrast between the vast number of safe legal abortions and the tiny number of complications.
"With virtually no exceptions, abortionists are the losers, rejects, and washouts of the medical community who couldn't compete in, or were drummed out of, legitimate medicine. Over and over, we saw irrefutable proof that good physicians don't ascend into the practice of abortion, but instead bad ones descend into it."
As sad as some of the stories are in Lime 5, Mr. Crutcher provides no real documentation for many of the cases and the documentation for other cases cited consist of nothing more than an old newspaper account. A few cases merit as much as two whole paragraphs of explanation, but others are summed up in as little as two lines. Almost all reports are from the woman's perspective or that of her lawyer. The doctor's voice is seldom heard. There is no attempt to present a comprehensive picture of the woman's health prior to the abortion.
For example, under Injuries to the Intestines/Bowels we find the case of Natasha, a 12-year old who underwent a third trimester abortion. Third trimester terminations are rare and much more likely to cause serious injury, especially on a child. There is no mention of how Natasha got pregnant or the possible consequences of full-term delivery for a twelve-year old.
The category Hemorrhage included the case of 21-year old Twilla who had a legal abortion in California in 1972. (Even though the book is about "legal" abortion, Mr. Crutcher cites cases beginning as far back as 1968). Twilla did not survive the abortion, but why? Could her hemorrhaging have been the result of hemophilia, a condition she did not report to the doctor because she was so desperate for an abortion? You can make up your own story because Lime 5 is silent on any details.
Vaulting to ConclusionsIt is interesting that, after years of the pro-choice community pointing out how anti-abortion activists focus solely on the fetus, seldom recognizing women as anything but incubators, now that it serves his purpose, Mark Crutcher has become the champion of all wronged women, protecting them from their doctors who he views as little more than butchers.
As if labeling all doctors who choose to provide abortion as losers and butchers in not enough character assassination, Mr. Crutcher also hints that women who go for an abortion face possible sexual assault. Lime 5 reports on some cases of sexual impropriety of doctors with patients. From these few examples of egregious medical practice, Mr. Crutcher has concluded that all doctors are potential rapists. This seems about as logical as assuming all priests are pedophiles just because some priests are.
There are a many more assertions to challenge in Lime 5, but by now you get the picture. Ending as he began, Mr. Crutcher has arrived at this conclusion, "With virtually no exceptions, abortionists are the losers, rejects, and washouts of the medical community who couldn't compete in, or were drummed out of, legitimate medicine. Over and over, we saw irrefutable proof that good physicians don't ascend into the practice of abortion, but instead bad ones descend into it."
Mr. Crutcher obviously thinks he has proved this assertion in the pages of Lime 5, but he is sadly deluded. If, after sending out scores of operatives researching for over two years, all he could find to indite the practice of legal abortion is contained in this book, then the real conclusion is, Mr. Crutcher has not made a mountain out of a pebble, but a grain of sand.
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