Scholars Accuse UK Government of Censoring Research Findings
WASHINGTON, D.C. April 26 (C-Fam) Two British scientists have charged the UK government with censorship for omitting information that cast a negative light on government programs related to “unwanted pregnancies.”
This occurred at the same time the UK has doubled down on its support for abortion worldwide.
Writing in The Lancet the researchers explain the UK Department for International Development (DFID) hired them to conduct an evaluation of a program intended to “reduce deaths from unwanted pregnancies.” But when the evaluation was conducted, powerful abortion groups pressured the UK government to suppress the researchers’ findings.
The program under review affected 14 countries in Africa and Asia, with a budget of more than $180 million. It was implemented by abortion-providing organizations Marie Stopes International (MSI) and Ipas.
“Censorship is a strong word,” the scientists write, but they question what else to call it when a donor commissions a study, then pressures them to omit information and change the tenor of their conclusions. They also reveal that a representative of one of the abortion groups threatened the academic reputation of the scientists and their institution if they published negative findings.
The scholars point out that independent evaluation is critical to ensure accountability for how public funds are used, and how well programs are working, especially when their impact is felt not at home, but abroad. But, they argue, “current systems…are ill equipped to deal with challenges when researchers are less powerful than the research subjects.”
For all their power and ability to intimidate, MSI and Ipas were careful to frame their arguments in terms of vulnerability. According to the evaluators, the organizations demanded the redaction of their names and the countries in which they worked, claiming the “findings could be ‘weaponized’ by their political opponents.”
Both DFID and the abortion organizations went to great lengths to ensure that the evaluation be carefully tailored “because of the ‘risks’ that the outputs might pose to the program within socially conservative countries.”
MSI has repeatedly been found to flout the law in countries that legally restrict abortion, including Kenya and Zambia.
Ultimately, “partly because of the intimidating environment,” multiple researchers have been hesitant to publish findings “ambivalent” about the effectiveness of the program, and, according to the Lancetarticle, “a substantial reservoir of learning generated by more than 20 academic researchers over a 5year period is not available to the public.”
Whether such censorship is self-imposed or the product of eternal pressure, it means that accountability for the use of funds provided by UK taxpayers is being sacrificed for the sake of the international pro-abortion agenda. Academic independence and the reputations of individual researchers are also under threat, should they fail to use their credibility to support the work of powerful abortion providers.
This is not the first time in recent months that the UK’s international health assistance programs have drawn strong criticism for their methods and reporting. Last fall, DFID faced a scathing evaluation from an independent watchdog group for its maternal health programming, which found that it overemphasized contraception and that over 60% of claimed maternal “lives saved” had not been pregnant in the first place.