John Klar: Checking the fact checkers

By John Klar

Great controversy surrounds a Feb. 15, 2019 VTDigger article (“Fact-check: Would Vermont’s proposed law allow abortions ‘right up to the moment of birth’?“) in which the author, Colin Meyn, weighs the veracity of Catholic Bishop Christopher Coyne’s statement that H.57 “would allow a child to be aborted right up to the moment of birth.”

Prior to Feb. 15, four attorneys had submitted commentaries to VTDigger regarding precisely this issue: all agreed with Bishop Coyne. VTDigger printed attorney Tim Kane’s “Reproductive rights gone amok,” (February 5, 2019); the other three attorneys’ pieces — Deb Bucknam, Bob Orleck, and John Klar — appeared on True North Reports.

Yet Mr. Meyn then wrote his contention that Bishop Coyne’s assertion, though “true in a legal sense … is seriously misleading with regard to permissible practice in Vermont.” Meyn’s wobbly piece concludes:

The proposed law would not change the legal reality in Vermont in any way. And all evidence indicates that the type of abortions that the bishop fears — elective procedures in the final stages of pregnancy — do not occur in Vermont, and would not occur if H.57 passes. We rate this statement as Mostly False.

There are two falsehoods in Mr. Meyn’s fact check reporting. The statement “[H.57] … would not change the legal reality in Vermont in any way”  is “true” in that third-trimester abortions will continue to be legal in Vermont, precisely as stated by Bishop Coyne. Agreeing with the four attorneys, FindLaw states: “It is legal for an abortion to be performed in Vermont at any stage of pregnancy for any reason or for no reason.” But what Meyn writes is patently false because it ignores that H.57 specifically prohibits any public entity from “prohibiting” or “interfering with” a health care provider’s involvement in the termination of a patient’s pregnancy, even creating a cause of action against the government (with attorney’s fees). This expands protections for the existing right to abort up until delivery, without any limitation, as Bishop Coyne stated.

The second falsehood is the statement “all evidence indicates that the type of abortions that the bishop fears — elective procedures in the final stages of pregnancy — do not occur in Vermont, and would not occur if H.57 passes.” This statement is demonstrably false, by use of VTDigger’s own resources. Mr. Meyn references as a source the Centers for Disease Control’s recently released study, “Abortion Surveillance — United States, 2015” (Nov. 23, 2018). Among other details, this report reveals (Table 7, Reported abortions, by known weeks of gestation and reporting area of occurrence, 2015) that nine abortions were performed after 21 weeks’ gestation in Vermont in 2015, and that nationally that figure was 5,597 (for the 40 states reporting). As Table 11 (Reported abortions, by known method type and reporting area of occurrence, 2015) indicates, all of these were “surgical procedures,” defined as “Includes aspiration curettage, suction curettage, manual vacuum aspiration, menstrual extraction, sharp curettage, and dilation and evacuation procedures.”

How can Mr. Meyn possibly assert that “all evidence indicates … [they] do not occur in Vermont”? Moreover, the CDC notes that “reports indicate that delays in obtaining an abortion are more common among certain groups of women.” A footnote leads the reader to “Who Seeks Abortions After 20 Weeks?” (Nov. 4, 2013). Authors Diana Greene Foster and Katrina Kimport conclude:

Women aged 20–24 were more likely than those aged 25–34 to have a later abortion (odds ratio, 2.7)….Most women seeking later abortion fit at least one of five profiles [(which described 80% of the sample)]: They were raising children alone, were depressed or using illicit substances, were in conflict with a male partner or experiencing domestic violence, had trouble deciding and then had access problems, or were young and nulliparous….data suggest that most women seeking later terminations are not doing so for reasons of fetal anomaly or life endangerment…. The second most common profile of women seeking later abortion (describing 30% of the sample) is characterized by substance use or mental health problems. (Abortion After 20 Weeks)

The CDC study cited by reporter Meyn thus reveals that late-term abortions are likely performed in Vermont, are more likely in younger women, and that approximately 80 percent of them are elective procedures. Further, H.57 increases protection for this status quo, prohibiting any form of government or administrative intrusion.

I rate VTDigger’s article by Colin Meyn as deliberately misleading. The bishop did not state that such procedures were performed — he stated that they were legal, which they most evidently are. But Mr. Meyn’s straw man has caught fire — it appears from his own data that such procedures likely are performed here in Vermont, electively.

If third-trimester abortions are not performed in Vermont, why on earth would supporters of H.57 be working so tirelessly, and dishonestly, to ensure that the “right” to perform them is preserved, even strengthened? Vermonters deserve better.

John Klar is an attorney and farmer residing in Brookfield, and pastor of the First Congregational Church of Westfield.

Image courtesy of Public domain

25 thoughts on “John Klar: Checking the fact checkers

  1. Front Porch Forum is owned by Michael Wood-Lewis, a Burlington Progressive. As a privately owned entity, FPF takes liberties with censoring and editing content submitted to them for publication. They rely on a published set of guidelines, but decide themselves whether to and when to follow them: posts conforming to or supporting their political beliefs may get published, even when violating their terms of service. Posts not consistent with their political beliefs sometimes won’t be published, though they conform to the TOS. Interpretation, of course, being solely at the discretion of MWL. Some who disagree with his decisions have had their accounts cancelled, even without violation of TOS. That practice, alone, reduces dissent.

    That many municipalities rely on the FPF to disseminate important public information is problematic in that some people will be locked out from that flow of information. Nor should town and city governments support a news media business that people rely on which censors, edits and closes accounts without applying the same standards equally to all.

    I’ve been with FPF since its very early days and have experienced some of the above myself and/or personally know others who have.

    • Thank you so much.

      There is so much more going on than we all realize, comments like this make all the difference, tetif people don’t speak up others get away with outrageous crap. You’ll note they are building a massive email data base. You’ll note it provides those in office with continual access for the years in office but those running against encumbents not so much.

      Vermont desperately needs more sunlight

    • Fully agree that the Terms of Service professed by Michael Wood Lewis in his FPF business are arbitrarily interpreted and administered. Only a dullard could not conclude his TOS is a “living document” construed to fit his own agenda moment to moment and post to post. That he received hundreds of thousands of unsuspecting taxpayers’ dollars to further his personal political beliefs is “outrageous,” to borrow a word from Comrade Sanders’ vocabulary. MWL also dupes people into sending him “contributions” by misleading them into believing his platform is a nonprofit charity. Make no mistake, the last thing MWL believes in is freedom of speech. Like all card-carrying progressives, his beliefs lie in controlling speech.

  2. It appears that vtdigger’s reporters Mike Dougherty and Xander Landen concur with my determination that Colin Meyn’s attack on Bishop Coyne was incorrect. They state (“The Deeper Dig: Who decides on reproductive rights,” February 22):
    “Democrats and medical providers stressed that third trimester abortions are rare, and patients considering them are typically weighing major risk factors.”
    This doesn’t jibe well with Meyn’s fabrication: “all evidence indicates that the type of abortions that the bishop fears — elective procedures in the final stages of pregnancy — do not occur in Vermont, and would not occur if H.57 passes.”
    Game, set, match.

  3. Digger isn’t going away. It’s very well-funded. You can review the Vermont Journalism Trust (aka VT Digger) 990 IRS return to see the details of its financing. All non-profits are required to make these forms public.

    In 2017 Digger realized over $1.8 million in revenue and $1.3 million in expenses. That’s a $500,000 net margin (27.7% of revenue). Even Apple, the Fortune 500’s most profitable company, had only a 21% margin on revenue. Digger’s asset base (as a non-profit it can’t have ‘profits’) increased from $1.558 Million to $2.156 Million in 2017.

    Diggers sponsors and directors (past and present) are a potpourri of the liberal establishment.

    Does VTDigger represent a particular political point of view?

    In its frequently-asked-question publication, Digger says – “No. The coverage is nonpartisan, and we strive to convey multiple perspectives on issues. We choose to not publish unsigned editorial opinion reflecting the views of the editors or the trustees.”

    Digger goes on to say: “We aim to fairly and accurately report the facts, hold officials accountable, and reveal government malfeasance when we find it.”

    On the other hand, one need only review Digger’s exclusive, incessant and repugnant publication of Danziger cartoons to see that it is anything but non-partisan.

    But beware the pot calling the kettle black. Keep in mind, many conservative journalistic establishments are similarly structured. It’s the way the game is played today. That’s why I believe the only recourse to what today amounts to propoganda is public input and commentary….as long as these institutions don’t censor us. Don’t let anyone silence you.

    • I doubt you’ll have people complaining that True North is censoring the voice of liberals or leftist on this site. Most are extremely weak in the argument. But even stupid arguments or comments on either site, within reason should be published. It gives a more accurate representation of the publics thoughts.

      Digger does not need readers money, if they did they wouldn’t exist. They will also not allow reporters or public to comment for them on the opposite side of the discussion, even for free.

      They are a complete propaganda machine. You’ll notice people can’t converse with each other now…..not sure how, but commentary on True North Reports seems pretty reasonable and uncensored.

  4. Please add me to the list of Digger plaintiffs. I haven’t a clue as to the truth of the matter surrounding Digger’s abortion data. Education and business are my bailiwicks. But I have suffered the slings and arrows of Digger censorship, no matter how polite I try to be.

    The misleading nature of Digger isn’t necessarily in what they publish, but what they don’t publish. Often, Digger editors practice ‘soft censorship’. That is to say, they withhold critical commentary until the suspect article moves from the front page. I actually have some hard evidence of their biased censorship and have complained to Digger editors privately.

    The only reason I continue to comment on Digger (when they allow me or don’t censor my comment) is to not give up on Digger readers. While it may be windmill jousting, I feel compelled not to give up and walk away. That’s clearly what they prefer you do. Rather, I recommend everyone who can continue to express their points of view on Digger. Be polite and to the point. But whenever you see nonsense, point it out when you can. It’s the least we can do.

    We’ll see what happens when the Digger folks read this missive. Now that the light is shining on them, will they be inclined to continue into the abys and censor us for what we say here? Or will they practice real journalism for a change?

    And this isn’t just putting Digger on notice. I expect all of Vermont’s digital rags to practice real journalism. From True North to Seven Days and all Vermont’s digital newspapers.

    • T Y Mr Eshelman for expressing your take on Digger and the shennanigans they try to put us through.
      I happen to believe that all efforts zeroed to another target is the way to go. What Digger needs to stay afloat, is of course money, and then the print. They have had ample time to correct any deficiencies and shortcomings, but have instead managed to keep the turmoil machine up and running to create a huge amount of frustration among contributors. They fix one issue, and create two more. It’s been this way all along. Would you use their approach to fix your car? I have complained about censorship from the beginning; instead of a fix it gets worse. I do not have time for this nonsense, so am using T N R 99% of the time and am happy with their program. It works for me.

    • Not to worry. H57 , thanks to Maxine Grad, Mitzi johnson, Tim Ashe will be the tool that over turns Roe v Wade. Vermont will be the leading cause, H57 will be the tool.. TGBTG

  5. Thanks John for pointing out how fake this news really is. I am not sure if you mentioned it when you said the lawyers posted in True North Reports. They also offered their op-ed to vtdigger but digger would not post them. In addition I offered 2 comments to shine light on the misleading statements in the piece, but they also chose not to publish either one of those. How fortunate we are to have True North Reports to give us real and not fake news.

  6. If you’ve been moderated please leave a comment, doesn’t have to long, but it help other see how much is truly happening in our state.m

    • Good for you, sir. I have been moderated repeatedly, in both commentaries and comments, by Vtdigger. It is blatant and methodical. I won’t contribute to them any longer, and I will direct my readership away from them as extremely biased. You are correct that there are many of us, Mr. Johnson.

      • So I am a bump on a log here in Rutland, and I join you folks in cutting ties with Digger. They constantly want money, my gut said “no” even though at times I was tempted. I never sent them a dime and have started doing business with T N R; what a Godsend to the public who all that is cared about really is the truth! You won’t get the truth at Digger, if they continue to print only what their political leanings are. I say let them have at it and the truth will prevail and win for us every time!!!! GO T N R !!!!!

    • This is Digger’s motto at the top of their website, “News in pursuit of truth”. Another falsehood!
      Does anyone know the circulation of True North? How can it be expanded? WSNO and WDEV have joined the liberal side probably due to the fact that they think it’s good for business. I haven’t listened to WSNO since they dropped their afternoon talk shows. I used to listen to WDEV but not any more, I don’t buy the Times Argus, The Burlington Free Press and Seven Days is worthless although they dislike Bernie and that is a plus. I have had numerous comments blocked by Digger. Going back to their motto, there must be a way to prove that their motto isn’t worth the ink to print it and people should be made aware.Their true motto should be, Conservative censorship in pursuit of the liberal/progressive ideology”.

    • Oyeah. MeToo. I’ve lost count the times. Had one of the godesses on Mt. Dyggerlympus tell me that there was another forum (garbage; forgot the name of it) more to my liking. Support them? Not a single red cent!!

  7. There is no question that views opposing the Lib/Progg/Dem agenda are persona non grata. All one has to do is sit in on one of these “fact finding” hearings and one will see first hand that expert testimony underminiing their pet project of the day gets ignored.

  8. Vermont Digger’s mission is censorship by omission because if the media can dumb down the populace they can retain liberal ideologies. Those who have access by written word, print and the air waves control the narrative. Yesterday I listened to WDEV radio program Vermont Conversations about current proposed gun bills working through the legislature. The sponsors of the show were all liberal organizations. Guests were a pediatrician, the head of Gunsense Vermont and Phil Baruth. No opposing voices were allowed on the show. It is easy to win a debate when you are the only one talking. Liberals claim they are for free speech, as long as that speech supports them. The problem is what can be done about it. The liberal echo chamber encompasses all of Vermont. Most media is controlled by the left. Conservative ideas have no voice. This is what an invasion looks like without the physical destruction. This is how they retain the government of Vermont.

  9. Absolutely correct, digger censors comments and commentators who have a view not inline with far left diggers. They run the same tired political cartoons over and over. Digger should just declare themselves a political puppet for the left, I would respect them more for at least being honest about what they are. None of this is surprising frankly, look at where their money comes from. Vt digger, bought and paid for.

  10. It’s called Propaganda

    Vermont Digger Excels at this. It is truly their forte. Look at EVERY cartoon, they can only make fun of one person?

    Digger is a on a massive “moderation” spree. Moderating all the comments to their tastes. The “moderation’ aka censorship is massive.

    During the election the “moderation” was common and prevalent everywhere. NPR screened all the calls when Stern was Running against Scott. Those of us calling in were left on hold for the entire show.

    “Moderation” was rampant in 7 Days, they refused to print comments, totally “inbed” with the establishment. Wait a minute, they were literally in bed with the establishment.

    Same thing for Front Porch Forum

    People have no idea how much media bias, censorship, deleting is going on. It would make a wonderful story we have hundreds of examples just from us, I”m sure there are thousands, probably 10;s of thousands of great examples.

    • “Same thing for Front Porch Forum”

      I haven’t yet seen any of that on FPF, but will be watchful for it now that you mention it. Will be watching to see if one of my more contentious posts makes it to the “porch”.
      They’ve got the gimme link prominent on their pages now, but I have so far not succumbed. Will let you know if I find reason to continue doing so.

      • I was removed 3 times nothing truly offensive, but I did get people talking about local topics.

        Then the final straw was when I reposted the insane expense of our local pocket park. Where I questioned the sanity of spending $45,000 on engineering and permitting for plantings and park benches along with a rock in the floodway (the main current of the flood, not the floodplain) for $1,000,000 per acre that was in no way every buildable.

        That was Saturday. On Monday morning I got a notice from Front Porch Forum, we noticed that you originally signed up for Moretown, not the Mad River Valley. You will no longer be allowed to post in the Mad River Valley. I replied that I live in Waitsfield, I signed up in Moretown because I went to church their. The would not respond to repeated requests that I be able to post in the Valley, because I in fact live their, despite my not needing Moretown page.

        It’s like my commentary of Affordable housing costing $550 per square foot, an insane figure when you consider most homes sell for $150/sq. ft and our most expensive slope side condominium sells for $444/sq.ft. Digger has yet to print the article, sadly this have been going on for decades.

        Even our Valley Reporter, to which I’ve never had problems to date, Change the title to my article, this week I sent it in titled Housing in the Mad River Valley, they changed the title, without asking or telling me to Agenda 21. I have to talk with Lisa about that, truly surprised me.

      • One of reasons you won’t see it, it’s been awhile, I forgot to mention they review all comments before publishing, that’s why there is 24 delay in posting. Plus they have every corrigated by town so there is no cross town communications, the people in office have the opportunity, to talk in multiple towns. Very good way to control conversations.

    • These are some of the very reasons the Progressives have been so intent on first controlling. then buying Burlington Telecom. Controlling station carriage decisions, such as unilaterally deciding to carry Al Jazeera, can be used to their political advantage, as can controlling the banners associated with TV programming. It’s like a city owning its own newspaper or radio station. I know some think they already do!

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