The Des Moines Register editorial staff defends illegal activity and unsupervised abortion this week in an editorial that shows an unparalleled level of irresponsible journalism by the respected paper. Editorials are designed to be the “voice” of a newspaper staff, taking a position on an issue or candidate that best represents the heart of the paper and its constituents, but the Register chooses deviance instead.
Addressing the issue of a PA mom who illegally ordered the abortion pill, not Plan B, which is available for sale by non-medical professionals, but the actual RU-486 pill that causes a medical abortion, from an unregulated overseas pharmacy, the paper defends her actions and says it was wrong to arrest and prosecute her as the law did. The defense the Register uses is reprehensible.
First, it says:
“When her teenage daughter wanted an abortion, the Pennsylvania mother ordered an “abortion drug” from a European website. This is the same drug that has been used by millions of women around the world to terminate pregnancies. It is the same drug approved in 2000 by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration as an alternative to surgical abortion.”
It may be the same drug, or it may not be since it was from a European pharmacy which does not have to abide by FDA standards. It’s impossible to know of any manufacturing deviations may be in play. The paper presents this as if the woman went to Amazon and bought a European bookseller’s mystery novel instead of an American bookseller’s. But we’re not talking about books here; we’re talking about a prescription drug that literally induces miscarriage and takes the life of a person, even when made with FDA approved standards and dispensed by a regulated pharmacy. A woman in PA is subject to the laws of the United States and the state of PA, not to what is legal in Europe.
The paper continues to defend the mother’s actions because when she saw the drug’s effect on her daughter, she was concerned and took her to a hospital. The paper neglects to mention how this is a medical processes that should have involved a doctor in the first place and instead defends her momma rights to “help” her daughter. With a tone of irony it says:
“The teen is reportedly fine, but her mother is in trouble. Because she is not a doctor or pharmacist, she violated Pennsylvania laws that dictate who can perform an abortion and dispense drugs.”
In fact, this was the actual issue. The district attorney who prosecuted the case said:
“[I]t is vital to note that this case is not about pro-life or pro-choice. In actuality, this case is about endangering the welfare of a child through the unauthorized practice of medicine and pharmacy. Specifically, the defendant was arrested for a failed abortion attempt which caused significant medical complications for a juvenile and required emergency hospital intervention. That intervention in turn triggered a mandatory reporting requirement under Pennsylvania law with regard to suspected or actual child abuse.”
She added that “the facts clearly support the charges which were filed against the defendant: performing an abortion when she is not a physician; dispensing medications when she is not a pharmacist; and, placing the minor victim in danger.”
The story further notes that the sentencing judge remarked that “there is no right to an abortion that’s performed outside the scope of medical procedure laws.”
The judge, Gary Norton, said, “Regardless of our viewpoints, we have to enforce the law as it exists in Pennsylvania. This was somebody taking life and law into their own hands and not to be taken lightly.”
Of course he is correct. She chose to take the life of her daughter and her grandchild into her own hands and perform a procedure that someone else had to go to medical school to legally perform in this country. That’s a problem. Perhaps Whalen had a massive error of judgment, but the real error of judgment now is on the Register who has turned this into a political issue about abortion. The editorial further says:
“Yes, this single mother of three who works as a personal care aide broke the law. Her attorney says she’s embarrassed and taking responsibility for her actions. But she was also caught in the cross hairs of state abortion statutes and divisive politics. She was not seeking to harm anyone, but was trying to help her daughter terminate a pregnancy.”
The irony that the mother was “not seeking to harm anyone” as she subjected her daughter to the physically and emotionally traumatic abortion is tragically ironic. In fact, many pro-choice people have commented that a medical abortion is more difficult and painful than a surgical one, noting it is preferred for its privacy, not comfort. Also, of course, a baby was harmed. Thus, two people were harmed by this mother’s actions—and the Register endorses this and says she didn’t “mean” to harm anyone.
Of course it’s really the insurance company’s fault, the paper notes. The daughter’s insurance didn’t cover abortions so what choice did she have but to violate the law? The paper notes, “She would have had to travel more than 70 miles to the nearest clinic, listen to a state-mandated lecture and then wait 24 hours before she could undergo the procedure.”
That’s the way the law works. Sometimes medical laws can feel cumbersome to everyone, but they are still laws, and we don’t get an out if we don’t like how they affect us–and we especially don’t get to take two other lives in our hands without being medical professionals. An educated person can read an instruction manual on performing a medical procedure, but performing it without an adequate license is illegal no matter how adept that person may feel at performing it. However, the Register seems to endorse medical quackery if it’s cumbersome, noting that those seeking abortions should be above the law. In fact, it essentially says this:
“What is a woman supposed to do if she doesn’t have a car or can’t afford to take off work to spend days out of town? What is a teenage girl supposed to do if she doesn’t want to tell anyone she’s pregnant? Maybe she gets online and finds an alternative way to end a pregnancy. She would be breaking the law too.”
What a shameful statement from those charged with truth and accountability as journalists. To have devoted coveted editorial space to take up the cause of a woman who broke the law, played doctor, and put her daughter in harm’s way all because of a perceived lack of “rights” is, at best, irresponsible journalism that should be called to account by the newspaper’s publisher, as well as by the public. In fact pro-choicers should stand at the front of the line opposing this piece of tainted journalism because such tactics as the one employed by this mother actually would endanger their legal abortions, and paint everyone in a bad light. These actions are not heroic. Some may offer sympathy for a woman afraid and desperate, but the newspaper goes too far with its editorial, supporting lawlessness if the law is deemed unfair in its eyes. In fact, the conclusion is the saddest part of all:
“Whalen’s daughter is fortunate to have a mother who supported her decision to terminate a pregnancy. This is a mother who likely would have provided the state-required parental consent for her daughter’s abortion and perhaps rightly recognized teenagers are not financially or emotionally ready to be parents. Jennifer Whalen is hardly the kind of criminal society needs to lock up.”
Abortion is legal in all 50 states. This girl was not actually prevented from an abortion, but her mom wanted to take her own path to obtain it, ignoring laws, medical regulations, and safety of her own daughter.
The Des Moines Register’s endorsement of a person performing a serious medical procedure because the political climate somehow calls for it is reprehensible “journalism” that shouldn’t be excused.