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The "Koop Report" On Abortion

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On July 30, 1987, then-President Ronald Reagan directed his Surgeon General, C. Everett Koop, to prepare a report on the effects of abortion on women. Prolife and prochoice groups disagree about what the results of that request were. Prolife activists say that Koop never wrote a report, but instead sent a letter to Reagan saying that there were no "unassailable" studies. Prochoice activists say that there was a Koop report that said abortion is perfectly safe. Which side is telling the truth? Both are -- if you know the inside story.

How can that be? The story is complex, and getting to the bottom of it took many hours in Library of Congress, digging through Congressional record. Follow this carefully.

Koop didn't want to write the report, for an assortment of personal and professional reasons. He tried repeatedly to beg off, but Reagan kept pestering him. Koop foisted the task off on his staff. The research and preparations for the planned report evidently became largely the task of one George Walter.

Walter listed a lot of folks he "consulted" about research into the effects of abortion women. Superficially, it looks as though Walter had a crew of mostly prochoice researchers, with token prolife researchers, bring forth their evidence. But what really happened is that Walter contacted the prochoice researchers at the Centers for Disease Control, and they forwarded a list of 250 research articles to him. These articles were selected by people who wanted to be able to say good things about abortion, and to avoid saying anything negative about abortion. Therefore, these articles were not representative of research on abortion. They were the 250 articles that CDC staff felt painted abortion in the best possible light.


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