CDC Debunks Right-Wing Claim That Obama Canceled Annual Abortion Report
Research ››› ››› JOCELYN FONG
On RedState.com, CNN contributor Erick Erickson claimed that the Obama Administration has canceled an annual Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report on abortion statistics because it is "afraid of the truth," and continued to insist that the report was "killed" even after the CDC said it was merely delayed and will be published. Indeed, an internal CDC email obtained by Media Matters shows that the report was submitted for review and editing on November 12.
RedState Originates Conspiracy Theory That Obama "Deep-Sixed" CDC's Abortion Report
RedState: "Obama Administration Covering Up Abortion Data." From Erick Erickson's February 3 RedState post, titled, "Obama Administration Covering Up Abortion Data":
RedState has uncovered evidence - confirmed by the CDC's own press office - that the Obama administration is deliberately playing "hide the ball" on nationwide abortion statistics. For apparently the first time in 40 years, the CDC's annual "Abortion Surveillance Report" was not published, and there are "no plans" for the data to be produced at this time.
Yet, in the wake of numerous damaging disclosures about unscrupulous practices by abortionists (from Kermit Gosnell to Planned Parenthood clinics across the country), the Obama Administration has apparently ordered that the only Federal government report on abortion statistics - again, a report that has run continuously for 40 years - be deep-sixed. The immediate question this raises is: what is the Obama administration trying to hide?
Last year, contrary to the long-established practice, November came and went with no report posted on the CDC's website. Over the following weeks, multiple visits to the site proved fruitless. The possibility the report was not merely delayed, but had in fact been axed from higher up, had to be considered.
Last week, RedState began investigating by calling those in DC who might have some answers. After several attempts, we finally received confirmation from Rhonda Smith at the CDC's press office in Atlanta that the report has been buried indefinitely; the CDC "will not have stats available at any time in the near future" and there "are no plans for them to come out any time soon." This call took place on Jan. 27th, and we asked Ms. Smith for a reason that the report wouldn't be issued anymore. She promised to check around and find out if there was any reason given and get back to us - as of the date of this posting, we have received no further communication from her office.
This revelation is nothing short of shocking. Most of the leg work for this study is actually done by Guttmacher - all it costs the CDC is some manpower to assemble the statistics and write up the report. In the overall scope of the CDC's budget, this report barely even registers. So what is the CDC trying to hide? The only reasonable conclusion to be drawn here is that someone higher up has made the decision to actively eliminate the only official report on abortion statistics in the country, just because they don't want abortion being talked about.
This action is indefensible and contrary to the Obama administration's repeated promises of transparency and the removal of politics from accurate scientific reporting. And it is more damning than any report: it reflects the reality that the Obama Administration is afraid of the truth, afraid that the American people cannot be trusted to support legal abortion if they look closely at the facts. [RedState, 2/3/11]
RedState: "Members Of Congress Have Been Weighing In On The Apparently Deep-Sixed CDC Report, And They Are Not Pleased." In a follow-up post, RedState wrote:
In the few hours since RedState originally ran this post, members of Congress have been weighing in on the apparently deep-sixed CDC report, and they are not pleased. As we reported earlier today, freshman Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler, who ousted Ike Skelton in MO-4 this year, excoriated the CDC's decision
RedState has also obtained a copy of a letter written by Senator Tom Coburn, which you can download here (warning, .pdf). In it, Coburn demands a response from HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius as to the CDC's future plans regarding the report, and any internal documents touching on the decision to stop producing the report. [RedState, 2/3/11]
Fox Nation Promoted RedState Post. On February 3, Fox Nation posted an image of a fetus and linked to Erickson's post with the headline, "Redstate: Obama Administration Covering Up Abortion Data":
NRO: Maybe Obama Wants To "Squelch Evidence Of The Impact Of Health Care Reform On The Abortion Rate." In a February 4 post titled, "Obama Administration Shamelessly Hides Abortion Data," National Review Online's Michael New linked to Erickson's post and stated:
The Obama administration's decision to stop publishing abortion statistics is nothing short of outrageous. This is especially true considering President Obama's campaign rhetoric about openness and transparency. Even the pro-choice Clinton administration did not interfere with the annual release of abortion statistics by the CDC. Furthermore, the Obama administration's motive is a bit puzzling. The CDC usually releases its annual abortion statistics in the fall with little fanfare and less media coverage. In fact, abortion statistics are quietly contained in a publication entitled Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, which also contains data about other public-health issues facing the United States.
Perhaps the Obama administration is seeking to squelch evidence of the impact of health-care reform on the abortion rate. Perhaps, seeing the political momentum of pro-lifers, they do not want to be blamed if abortion numbers increase. Perhaps they want to reduce the amount of discussion on abortion trends in general. Regardless, research and human knowledge will not advance without access to reliable data. By blocking the release of abortion data, the Obama administration is doing a tremendous disservice to researchers, scholars, journalists, and the general public. [National Review Online, 2/4/11]
Erickson Claims CDC Is "Scrambling To Appear As If They Were Going To" Publish The Report "All Along"
After Getting CDC Response, Erickson Continues To Insist That The Report "Was Quietly Killed." After receiving a response from CDC stating that the report was delayed because some data "was not available at the time we normally prepare for the ASR [Abortion Surveillance Report]," Erickson wrote:
We have very little doubt what happened it this case. An inconvenient report was quietly killed. The interview we had with the CDC press office confirmed that not only had the report not been written but that there were no plans to do so. This was confirmed by the CDC. The person who confirmed it was not confused. She did not misunderstand. She answered that the report hadn't been produced, that she didn't know why, and that she would find out. She then later called back to confirm that it was not an oversight, and that the report would not be forthcoming.
The distance between that response and the current position of it being ready to go to press at seemingly a moment's notice is difficult to bridge without a skyhook.
The CDC did not run the report. They confirmed that they were not going to run the report. Only after we brought attention to it have they begun scrambling to appear as if they were going to do it all along. At RedState, we're reminded of the guy who trips on a curb and, embarrassed, explains, "totally meant to do that." [RedState, 2/4/11]
- CDC: Erickson's Information Is "Incorrect." CDC spokesperson Karen Hunter told Media Matters that she was not familiar with the conversation Erickson said he had with a CDC official, but that his information was "incorrect."
CDC: Abortion Surveillance Report Was Delayed, Will Be Published
Mediaite: RedState Fails To Establish "A Link To The Obama Administration." Responding to RedState's report, Mediaite's Tommy Christopher wrote that "nothing in their reporting establishes a link to the Obama administration" and that "[a]n administration official told me that 'this report is slated to run later this month, and always has been.'" [Mediaite, 2/3/11]
CDC: Report Was Delayed Because Data Was Delayed. CDC spokesperson Karen Hunter told Media Matters that "the reason [the report] didn't come out the last weekend in November is that they were waiting for some data that was delayed," which caused the report to be submitted to the MMWR (Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report) staff on November 12, months later than in previous years. MMWR reviews, edits, schedules and publishes the annual Abortion Surveillance Report (ASR). Hunter added that the White House was not involved in the delay and said that the report is tentatively scheduled to be published in late February.
CDC Email Reveals Abortion Report Was Submitted For Editing. Media Matters obtained the following email, stating that the Abortion Surveillance Report was submitted by the science staff to MMWR in November:
*MMWR Editor-In-Chief Explains The Delay. Ronald Moolenaar, the editor-in-chief of the MMWR stated in an email to Media Matters:
Typically MMWR publishes the Abortion Surveillance Summary in November after receiving the draft from the Program during the summer. This year we were informed that it would be arriving late; it arrived in our office on November 12, 2011.
Each submission to MMWR goes through multiple rounds of scientific and editorial review. This involves a back and forth exchange between MMWR and the authors to revise the draft to improve its clarity, readability and accuracy. That is followed by contributions from our Desktop publishing team, who use Adobe End Design to arrange the tables, graphics and pages of text so that they most effectively communicate the information. Our usual turnaround time for publications such as this is 12-16 weeks, but this interval can be longer especially if includes the holidays or winter storms.
This issue on Abortion Surveillance is scheduled to be posted on-line on February 24th with a February 25, 2011 publication date. At this point, we are not aware of any delays expected in the next report, which is therefore tentatively scheduled for November. [Email to Media Matters, 2/7/11]
Report To Be Released Will Cover Abortion Statistics From 2007. The CDC's Abortion Surveillance Report "is based on the data available from all states and areas that cooperate in reporting for a given calendar year. In addition, ample time is required to perform the analyses that produce the tables, charts, and the narrative describing trends and methods." As the CDC website shows, the data collected for each year is released in the Abortion Surveillance Report several years later. [CDC.gov, accessed 2/4/11]
Erickson Falsely Claims The Report Is Always Published In November Or December
Erickson: "For 40 Years" The "Report Has Appeared In The Last November Or First December Issue." From Erickson's February 4 RedState post:
To briefly recap, for 40 years the CDC has published the Abortion Surveillance Report. For 40 years that report has appeared in the last November or first December issue of CDC's journal, the Morbidity and Mortality Report Weekly Report. This year it didn't. A RedState tradition has been to use this report for our annual retrospective on abortion. When it didn't appear in November... or December... or in January we decided to ask why. [RedState, 2/4/11]
Publication Dates Varied Greatly In The Past. During most of the Bush administration, the report was published in November. For instance, the data for 1999 were published on November 29, 2002, and the data for 2000 were published on November 28, 2003. However this practice was not always in place: the data for 1998 were published in June 2002; The data for 1993 were published in August 1997; The data for 1992 were published in May 1996; The data for 1991 were published in May 1995; The data for 1986 were published in June 1990; The data for 1984 were published in September 1989; The data for 1982 were published in February 1987; And the data for 1979 were published in February 1983. In addition, several of the reports encompassed two years of data, rather than one. [PubMed.gov, accessed 2/4/11]
*Content added to item 2/8/11