The Corner

You Can Always Count on Ellen Goodman

I’m late, but it’s too good to pass up.

Here’s Ellen Goodman in the Boston Globe, after the stem-cell breakthrough:

Let us pause and review Stem Cells 101. What scientists are trying to do is take an ordinary cell from the human body and persuade it to become, say, a heart muscle cell, or a brain cell, or a liver cell, to fix whatever ails us.

The researchers did not study embryonic stem cells because they wanted to run a recycling center for leftovers from in vitro fertilization clinics. Nor did they have a passion for wedge issues. Rather, the embryo could do what they were still unable to do: cause ordinary body cells to act like stem cells.

I love that first sentence, preceding as it does complete scientific nonsense. The “embryo” doesn’t “cause ordinary body cells to act like stem cells.” Rather, in the type of stem-cell research Goodman is supporting in this column, stem cells are taken from an embryo, which is killed in the process.

Goodman writes about abortion, embryo research, and related issues about as often as I do–over the course of her longer career, she has probably written more on them than I have. But she never seems to be able to get her facts straight.

In 2004, Cecil Adams of the Straight Dope had to correct her for claiming that she remembered when “10,000 American women a year died from illegal abortions.” He wrote that

even a generous reading of the statistics we do have indicates that Goodman is off by a factor of ten; a stickler might say she blew it by a ratio of 250 to 1. It’s not like this is a news flash, either. A reasonable approximation of the annual total in the 60s has been public knowledge for 35 years.

To her credit, she retracted her claim. Her figure came from a 1936 study; even in her correction, she didn’t acknowledge that it had been retracted six years later.

In researching my book, I found that in 1995, she wrote that in a partial-birth abortion, the fetus dies from anesthesia–a dangerous lie that the abortion lobby had spread.

When you read an Ellen Goodman column, always do a little extra checking before accepting her facts. 

Ramesh Ponnuru is a senior editor for National Review, a columnist for Bloomberg Opinion, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute.


The Latest