Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Peer-Reviewed Science is Politically-Revised

Peer-Reviewed Science is Politically-Revised
Janice Shaw Crouse

Many of us have known for years that the scientific community is not as pristine pure as they’d like the public to think; politics has long been alive and well at American universities and among the peer-review networks. It is still shocking, however, to discover that the White House has tampered with scientific findings.

The political official in charge of defending the partial-birth abortion act in federal court during the Bush administration, Shannen Coffin, described for National Review his discovery of documents released by the Clinton White House that show the apparent manipulation of a scientific report on partial-birth abortion by Elena Kagan, the nominee for the Supreme Court who is undergoing confirmation hearings this week.

If the reports are true –– and there are hand-written notes that seem to indicate Kagan’s direct involvement in the deception –– Kagan’s name should immediately be withdrawn from consideration for the Supreme Court and she should be disbarred and disgraced.

Here are the facts. A “select panel” of physician-members of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), a professional medical association that sponsors/conducts medical studies and publishes results, issued a report –– with the professional credibility of ACOG behind it –– that declared that the partial-birth abortion procedure “may be the best or most appropriate procedure in a particular circumstance to save the life or preserve the health of a woman.”

That statement was used in numerous court cases as “official” medical opinion regarding the partial-birth abortion procedure.

Now we learn –– thanks to Powerline blog and National Review –– that ACOG’s original statement said exactly the opposite. Further, we learn –– appallingly –– that ACOG sent their findings to the Clinton White House for review prior to publishing the report. [Astounding. Can you imagine any scientific report being sent to a conservative politician for review and editing prior to publishing. The media would, rightly, be up in arms.] At the White House, the original statement was read by Elena Kagan, who was Clinton’s deputy assistant for domestic policy.

According to Powerline and National Review, Kagan was horrified that the report said “ACOG could identify no circumstances under which” partial-birth abortion “would be the only option to save the life or preserve the health of the woman.” Kagan apparently “took matters into her own hands” and, in her own handwriting, produced a draft suggesting that the procedure “may be the best or most appropriate procedure in a particular circumstance to save the life or preserve the health of a woman.”

ACOG produced a final statement utilizing Kagan’s version verbatim.

If these facts are, indeed, true, Kagan –– a nominee for the Supreme Court –– manipulated a scientific report to suit her political opinions and deliberately, as Powerline put it, “subverted what was supposed to be an objective scientific process.” And, ACOG was complicit in the distortion for political and self-serving reasons. As Powerline further said, “The federal courts were victimized by a gross deception and a perversion of both the scientific process and the judicial process, carried out, the evidence appears to show, by Elena Kagan.”

ACOG’s involvement in this deception is especially egregious. Their president at the time, Douglas W. Laube, was self-righteous in his statement of opposition to the Supreme Court decision in 2007 upholding the partial-birth abortion ban. His statement called the decision “shameful and incomprehensible” and lamented a situation where “scientific knowledge frequently takes a backseat to subjective opinion.”

Lesser scholars have lost their positions and their reputations for plagiarism or scientific distortion. Here a prestigious professional organization deliberately manipulates its findings to accommodate a political ideology and aligns itself with a lowly deputy in the Clinton White House to accomplish its ideological distortion. The false report is used in courts to continue an abhorrent, brutal practice that repels people of compassion and decency.

In the meantime, the woman behind such a pivotal lie sits in the catbird seat, practically assured confirmation as a Supreme Court Justice of the United States by complicit senators who control the nomination process –– with dozens of television cameras recording her “charm” and practiced, vapid responses for future generations.

Will the Republican senators find the courage to stop such an outrageous nomination from proceeding? Will they quietly stand by while colleagues confirm someone who was willing to distort a scientific report to suit her purposes? Is this the caliber of person whose judgment will be considered high court “wisdom?”
Kagan on ACOG memo: Did I do that?
posted at 1:36 pm on June 30, 2010 by Ed Morrissey

If the intent of Elena Kagan’s testimony in the Senate Judiciary Committee is to build confidence in her competence, her answer to Orrin Hatch about a controversial memo has to be a huge step in the wrong direction. Despite the issue having been in the news for the last 24 hours and the centrality of it to the Clinton-era efforts to stop a ban on partial-birth abortion, Kagan initially claimed ignorance of the issue. Only when pressed did Kagan recall her intentions, as Byron York and LifeNews‘ Steven Ertelt both report this afternoon:

“Did you write that memo?” Hatch asked.

“Senator, with respect,” Kagan began, “I don’t think that that’s what happened — ”

“Did you write that memo?”

“I’m sorry — the memo which is?”

“The memo that caused them to go back to the language of ‘medically necessary,’ which was the big issue to begin with — ”

“Yes, well, I’ve seen the document — ”

“But did you write it?”

“The document is certainly in my handwriting.”

But after finally admitting that she wrote it, she then dismissed it:

Hatch continued to press Kagan about the document, and she ultimately told Hatch she didn’t think she had the power to alter ACOG’s statement: “there was no way I could have or would have intervened” in ACOG drawing up its own opinion.

Kagan said she wrote the memo to present the “most accurate understanding” of what ACOG thought about partial birth abortion and said ACOG’s original statement didn’t represent the totality of what it thought about partial-birth abortion as originally expressed to the Clinton administration. …

“They could think of circumstances in which it was the best or most appropriate procedure and that it was the procedure with the least risk” for women’s health. “We informed President Clinton of that fact and there did come a time when we saw a draft statement and I had some discussion with ACOG about that draft.”

“I recall generally talking to ACOG about that statement and about whether that statement was consistent with the views we knew they had,” [she] said to explain away the criticism.

“The document is certainly in my handwriting” is a way to say, “I’m not going to explicitly admit writing it.” Otherwise, why not just say, “Yes, I wrote it”? Note also the “I recall generally talking to ACOG” rather than “this is what I wrote and why I wrote it.” It’s deceptive and only somewhat responsive to what Hatch asked and why he asked it.

In other words, it’s more or less an Urkel defense of saying, “Did I do that?” Kagan seemed ill prepared to discuss the memo, despite the debate that has erupted since yesterday over its meaning. When she did discuss it, she did so in an evasive manner. I doubt seriously that this alone will derail her confirmation, but this evasiveness plus her utter lack of judicial experience should have Senators questioning the wisdom of this choice, and questioning Kagan with more enthusiasm on her track record as a political activist within the Clinton administration.

Update: Shannen Coffin, who published the memo and its edits, responds at National Review:

First, the ACOG task force — formed specifically and solely for the purpose of studying the medical efficacy of the procedure — met for two full days in October 1996, and the result of their collective work was a statement concluding only that it could identify no particular circumstances where the partial-birth method might be the only method to save the health or life of the mother, but that the committee thought it important to leave that judgment to the individual doctors — that is, a policy statement that Congress should stay out of it. After they deliberated in October 1996, the task force forwarded its draft statement to the ACOG board. It was only then that Kagan stepped in to suggest changes.

Therefore, any suggestion that her work was merely the synthesis of the task force’s deliberations doesn’t account for that time line — she had no interaction with the task force itself, only the executive board of ACOG.

Second and more significant, the White House had already met with ACOG’s former president and current chief lobbyist (to whom Kagan’s revisions were addressed) in June 1996, before the special task force was even formed. At that meeting (which apparently Kagan did not attend but recounted in a memo to her bosses, dated June 22, 1996), Kagan wrote that the White House staffers were basically told that ACOG couldn’t identify any particular circumstances where the procedure was medically necessary.

Coffin quotes from the relevant memo that makes this even more clear. Perhaps another Republican on the panel will pick this up where Hatch left off.

1 comment:

Mycos said...

Strange oiece here. It argues that the statement "best or most appropriate procedure" means the same thing as "the ONLY procedure available" the failaure to come up with circumstances in which it was the only procedure they could think of must, by extension, make their earlier statement about it being the "most appropriate" way to go, a lie.

"Best" and "only" are not the same thing. So the entire article argues a conflict in statements that never happened which, by extension, means the only lie here is the attempt to say there was one. Either we have poor logic, or a an irrational person. Take your pick.