White House Downplays Safety of Abortions, Report Says
WASHINGTON — ANTI-ABORTION politics at the White House has ``interfered with scientific evidence and research'' on abortion in the Department of Health and Human Services, the chairman of a House panel contends. Rep. Ted Weiss (D) of New York charged in a report released Sunday that the federal government has failed to report evidence of the relative safety of abortions for women.
His panel concluded after an investigation that the federal Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has censored research on abortion, and urged that the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) take steps to assure public health research is not affected by politics.
It also recommended increased federal support for contraceptive research to help decrease the 1.5 million abortions obtained by American women every year.
``This report provides important evidence of the relative safety of abortion for women, since more than 90 percent of abortions performed in the US are much safer than pregnancy and childbirth, and even the most dangerous types of legal abortions are equal in risk to carrying a pregnancy to term,'' said Congressman Weiss.
His statement was included with the report by the House Government Operations Committee, based on an investigation by its subcommittee on human resources and intergovernmental relations, which Weiss chairs.
In charging that scientific research by the CDC has been ``restricted by the political considerations'' in the Reagan and Bush administrations, the committee cited a change in CDC statistics gathering.
Five years ago, it said, the CDC stopped comparing women who had abortions with women carrying pregnancy to term. Comparisons had indicated women were between seven and 25 times more likely to die from childbirth than from legal abortion, the report said.
Jim Brown, a spokesman for James Mason, assistant secretary for health at HHS, said that while Mr. Mason was director of CDC from 1983 until last winter, ``there was not censorship on the abortion issue.''
Six Republican House members filed a dissent, charging the report was written with ``pro-abortion bias'' and ``paints a misleading and inaccurate picture.''
The panel conducted an investigation into the efforts by the Reagan administration to have its surgeon general, C. Everett Koop, prepare a report on the health effects of abortion on women. After conducting meetings and research, Dr. Koop in January wrote to President Reagan saying there was insufficient information on which to base a report. A draft of Koop's unreleased report concluded that valid scientific studies have documented that modern abortion is a medically safe procedure.