Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Not Well Played, NYT

Monday night (probably Tuesday in the print version), the New York Times reported on a federal judge's decision that the FDA acted improperly in setting an 18-and-over age restriction on the over-the-counter availability of Plan B.

Sidebar: Woohoo! Now, science people, don't freak out. I still feel sort of queasy about non-scientist judges making rulings about science. However, this decision was not actually about science; it was about government officials using politics to game the approval process. So I can celebrate the reproductive rights moment without feeling awkward. Besides, if Susan Wood-- who resigned from the FDA because of this issue-- is happy, I'm happy.

So if I'm glowing from women's collective win, why am I pissed at the New York Times? It's because I'm one of those masochists who reads the reader comments. What's worse, I'm that girl who reads the comments and then tries to figure out how the editors chose their "Editors' Selections." Allegedly, the rationale is as follows:

"NYTimes editors aim to highlight the most interesting and thoughtful comments that represent a range of views."

Okay, fine. I even acknowledge upfront that they are inevitably going to pick some comments with which I disagree. No problem. Of course they were going to highlight a comment from someone who thinks Plan B is going to be the end of western civilization. I was ready for that. Hell, that's why I clicked on the comments page in the first place.

However, I have a major problem with tagging as "interesting and thoughtful" a comment that includes factual errors. I'm looking at you, Comment #10:

"For those of us, who respect the sanctity of life and believe a soul is imputed to a human being at conception, this is yet another travesty in a series of tragedies." The poster goes on to condemn "support for Licentious behavior" (bonus point for vocab, deduction for random mid-sentence capitalization), liberal politicians, and people creating baby mama drama (not in those words).

Fine. If the NYT editors think it looks magnanimous to give a shout-out to conservative reader, whatever. My problem is one of the following:

a. Comment #10 guy doesn't know how Plan B works.
b. Comment #10 guy doesn't know how conception works (less likely, not out of the question).
c. Both a. and b.
d.-f. Repeat a.-c., but replace "Comment #10 guy" with "NYT staffer moderating comment board."

In case I have confused anyone, here is my problem in a less passive-aggressive format. From the Plan B website: "Plan B® works like a birth control pill to prevent pregnancy mainly by stopping the release of an egg from the ovary." If you read the pamphlet (linked above), you'll see that they allow that it is possible that Plan B also prevents fertilization and implantation. However, in the intended, proven function of the drug (the no egg part), conception is not in the picture. So if you're going to rail against something using only "life begins at conception" and your self-righteous recollections of a bygone time when dirty liberals weren't running the show, please direct your comments elsewhere.

Furthermore, NYT, please step up your game. Misconceptions (ha.) about the function of a pharmaceutical product couched in pro-life rhetoric hardly qualify as "thoughtful."

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