BY RICHARD L. FRICKER
This is not about abortion, right to life, right to choice or any of the other terms which dominate pregnancy termination discussion. This is about accuracy devoured by hyperbole and a press letting hyperbole stand as fact.
The event was a speech hosted by Bishop Edward Slatery during the Jan. 24 Tulsa March for Life on the steps of Holy Family Cathedral. Rev. G. Calvin McCutchen, retired pastor of the Mt. Zion Baptist Church, told the assembled, according to the Tulsa World, “more African-Americans die from abortion than any other cause.”
The march was attended by the usual array of faithful, political conservatives and conservative political hopefuls. This discussion has raged across the political landscape for decades, crossing party and religious lines and causing death in some cases. Presently, there seems to be a standstill, perhaps awaiting the next election cycle.
Nearly all the positions in this far-ranging discussion have articulate, well informed and in many cases dynamic speakers. And as discussion ebbs and flows it seems than no one is changing anyone’s mind.
So why is Rev. McCutchen’s remark, and the Tulsa World’s willingness to accept it at face value, so disturbing?
There is no doubt Rev. McCutchen is a good man. There is no doubt Rev. McCutchen is an honest man. There is no doubt Rev. McCutchen is a God-fearing religious man. But Rev. McCutchen is wrong.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, the leading cause of death for African-Americans is heart disease. Heart Disease is followed by malignant neoplasms, cerebrovascular, unintentional injury and diabetes mellitus. Those diseases accounting for 179,110 African-American deaths.
The sixth leading cause of death was homicide, 9,032. Within that number, homicide was the leading cause of death in the 15-34 age group, 5,965.
Among African-American women the leading cause of death was the same, heart disease, followed by malignant neoplasms. In the age group 1-34, unintentional injury was the leading cause, which includes traffic accidents, home accidents, drowning etc. Homicide was within the top five in the 1-34 age group but was not in the Top 10 overall.
In Oklahoma the leading cause of death among African-American women was – again – heart disease following by malignant neoplasms, cerebrovascular and diabetes. Homicide was the leading cause of death in the 15-24 age group. Malignant neoplasms and heart disease lead the way from age 25 forward.
There is no data to support Rev. McCutchen’s statement. It would be hard to imagine he would deliberately mislead anyone. Believing something to be true and having it in fact be true are very different things.
Many believed Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, they believed Iraq had nuclear capabilities and could fire on Europe at a moments notice, that Iraq helped plan the attack of 9/11. None of that was true, none. How many are dead because of these mistaken beliefs?
The Tulsa World passed McCutchen’s remark off as fact. They placed quotation marks around the words and bobbled off to the next story, never once asking … Is that true?
McCutchen obtained his misinformation from somewhere. The World now gave it added weight by not fact checking.
The same was done when they quoted Sen. Jim Inhofe about his trip to Copenhagen. Had the World checked they would have found that Inhofe spoke “at” “some” reporters but did not speak “with” any reporters.
Had the World checked they would have found Sen. Inhofe was rather impolitely dismissed. They would have found he was soundly and openly ridiculed by at least one journalist.
No one is wanting to ridicule Rev. McCutchen. He was misinformed by a source he must have trusted otherwise he would not have drawn on it for his speech. But this is too heated a discussion to allow misinformation to clutter the landscape.
As for the Tulsa World? There are fine and energetic reporters ensconced within its confines; they should be allowed to not only do their jobs but mentor the needy.
Footnote: In the interest of accuracy readers are directed to this link for the facts and figures used in this piece.
– Richard L. Fricker lives in Tulsa, OK and is a regular contributor to The Oklahoma Observer