Monday, January 22, 2007

Blogging for Choice Day Post - Data Instantiation

by Ken Houghton

I make my living in large part because of data: knowing what to do with it, how to present it, where to get it, how to check it, and when it Just Doesn't Sound Right.

But I rarely think about whether the data is necessary. A lot of what we collect is useful not to our area, but to others.

I only think about this today because of my wife's back, and her visits to my neurologist.

It is (has become?) a matter of course to ask female patients about their pregnancy history, whether or not that is germane to treatment. So I thought nothing of it when Shira was asked. As Bitch's BfC post today notes, the information is sometimes relevant—and sometimes it is not.

But she mentioned it later, and I've thought about it since.

I'm the first to say that carrying around two girls who weight about 80 pounds between them probably isn't great for your back. On the other hand, it's rather difficult to look at them (or pictures of them) and us and not conclude that they are the result of two pregnancies brought to term. So it is not as if the question comes up because of a need for the data.

And I understand that there are medical professionals, such as her ob/gyn, who need such data—and need it to be accurate.

But data tends to be instantiated beyond and outside of its needed applications. And data that is stored by one person can be accessed by another, legally, illegally, or through changes in the law.

My wife noted that there is a strong incentive for women who have had abortions to lie to their care providers, because they have no control over that datum once it is recorded by the doctor.

The shameful NYT Magazine's cover piece yesterday, Emily Bazelon's "Fluffing Rhonda Arias," makes it clear that there isn't an upside to providing accurate data to medical professionals.

As a husband and the father of two daughters, I have to recognize that a climate in which slightly over half of the population either has a significant incentive to lie about their medical information or cannot be trusted when they do present accurate data is not one in which I want them to live.

Which is why I am pro-choice. And What Rox Said.

*The credibility of the piece was destroyed by A Bird and A Bottle here.
Ugh. What a nasty article.

It's interesting that these women who are traumatized by their abortions don't blame the movement that is constantly telling them that it's murder for making them feel so horribly guilty. I also find it bizarre, given the traumatic life history cited for Arias, that her abortions are singled out as the primary cause of her unhappiness. She was raped, sexually abused, had a baby at 14 that she gave up for adoption. But her abortions are the primary source of her psychological trauma? It strikes me that they are drawn to the "pro-life" movement because they have a psychological need to keep punishing themselves.
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