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The Study is Bunk, The Problem Is Real

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This headline came up on my reader feed this morning from Time Magazine:

Hardly Any Women Regret Having an Abortion, a New Study Finds

Had the source been “Talking Points Memo” or “Think Progress” or any of the other hard leftie sites I keep an eye on, I would have moved on knowing the study was bunk.  But Time Magazine is still supposed to have some standards left, so onward I looked.  My first hint of a problem:

The sample group was diverse with regard to standard social metrics (race, education, and employment) and on the matter of what the study calls pregnancy and abortion circumstances.

What?! Religion is not on the social metrics list?  And so I punch through to the actual “study.”  Sure enough the “Results” section contains no data on religion or other personal ethical training in the study participants whatsoever.

I head to the section on “Materials and Methods” and find that a) this study was performed on data from another study that was designed to measure something else, and b) this sentence, “Participant recruitment is described elsewhere.”  So, I go to the footnotes and follow the link only to find that the paper that describes “participant recruitment” is hidden behind a very expensive academic pay wall.  Methinks there is a bit of academic slight of hand going on here.

Clearly the study somehow sorted out all the people that might regret their abortions before they actually analyzed the data.  I’m sure if I put in the time, money and effort, I could root out the statistical errors they made, but if this “study” was worth the electrons it took to publish it, that math would be readily available to me in the article itself.  Res Ipsa Locquitor.

Time described their source paper as having been published in “the multidisciplinary academic journal PLOS ONE.”  In the section “Why publish with PLOS ONE” it says in big, bold letters:

PLOS ONE takes the hard work out of publishing. There’s no stress waiting to find out if your article meets subjective acceptance criteria. As long as your work reaches a high technical and ethical standard, PLOS ONE will publish it – and make it freely available to a global audience.

In other words – let’s not bother with that nasty peer review process.  Publish here!  We’ll give you all the legitimacy of academic publishing with none of the rigor.  The “Criteria for Publication” are about as nebulous as it can get and still pretend to be academic.

So, the study is bunk published by snake oil salespeople and repackaged by a once great publication that has now lost all credibility.  Fortunately, googling “abortion regret” shows that this study has almost no traction at the moment.  Aside from Time, it only comes up as having been carried by the aforementioned hard leftie sites – which means that Time has now joined the highly prized journalistic ranks of places like “Daily Kos.”

Having now established that I do not have to pay attention to this article in the ways its authors and publishers hoped I would, I still find it one of the saddest things I have read in a very long time.  Thankfully it does not reflect society generally.  But that they could find 670 women, 95% of whom three years later did not regret their abortions in some fashion, is deeply disturbing.  It bespeaks a very broken society.

While the theological concepts of original sin and total depravity are out of vogue these days, one cannot help but reflect on them when encountering something like this.  One must wonder about the wisdom of the psychological “self worth” movement when people become so narcissistic that they experience no regret of any kind at their own abortion.

The study and the journalism may be garbage, but it still drives me to my knees in prayer.

Hughniverse

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