Wednesday, February 20, 2019

#2147: David Reardon

David Reardon is an American electrical engineer and anti-abortion activist with a bogus degree in biomedical ethics from Pacific Western University, an unaccredited, now-defunct diploma mill. He is the founder of the Elliot Institute, an anti-abortion advocacy group, and the author of a number of articles and books on abortion and mental health. As such, Reardon is one of the most influential propagators of the myth that abortion causes psychological health issues, which he backs up with a thick layer of pseudoscience and discredited “studies” (like the infamous Priscilla Coleman et al. study). Indeed, Reardon’s main anti-abortion strategy is to try to argue that abortion is not only morally wrong, but that there are prudential reasons – women’s health and well-being – for making it illegal, a position that is hard to sustain without an unhealthy dose of pseudoscience, denialism and conspiracy mongering. The purpose of the Elliot Institute is accordingly to study “the effects of eugenics, abortion, population control, and sexual attitudes and practices on individuals and society at large,” where “study” means “working hard to make the data fit the hypothesis by any means necessary.”

Reardon’s nonsense is not exactly fringe-nonsense in the anti-abortion movement, however: post-abortion counseling ministries are a growing industry, and part of an effort by the pro-life movement to outlaw abortion by stressing its purported psychological effects. “Even if pro-abortionists got five paragraphs explaining that abortion is safe and we got only one line saying it's dangerous, the seed of doubt is planted,” Reardon wrote in his book.

Diagnosis: It’s almost as if any issue taken up by wingnuts and fundies turns into pseudoscience, denialism and conspiracy theorizing by default. Reardon has at least emerged as a major producer of pseudoscientific bullshit, and one whose impact is non-negligible.

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