While researching something on PubMed I stumbled across a journal entitled Issues in Law and Medicine.

It appears that the vast majority of articles are either anti-choice (e.g. abortion causes breast cancer or childbirth is way safer than abortion) with a smattering of anti-vaccine articles.


I especially like the use of quotations around “Emergency Contraception.”

In Spring 2010 the subject matter was personhood. Yes, an entire issue of a journal dedicated to the idea that unborn children are constitutional persons.


So I looked up this journal and of course it claims to be a “peer-reviewed publication of the National Legal Center for the Medically Dependent & Disabled, Inc., and the Horatio R. Storer Foundation, Inc.”


Peer reviewed of course means nothing. People have shown that articles that make no sense (i.e. are actually gibberish) can get into journals of lesser repute that claim to be peer reviewed. If you can’t get something published it simply means you have not sit send enough times. Even with more established journals with reputations for good publications the peer review process can be gamed.

But if most of what you publish supports an anti-choice thinking (or anti-vaccine) and hence is not supported by science should you be entitled to be included in the National Library of Medicine?

What if I wanted to start a journal called “Issues in Geology and Topology” and I only included articles that supported the idea that the Earth is flat? Then I asked my flat earth society friends with degrees to peer review and also asked the authors to peer review each other and I only published articles that said the Earth is flat. Would anyone think that counted as a scientifically objective journal?

I hope not.

To be indexed by the National Library of Medicine a journal must meet standards of scientific objectivity so I am left to wonder how exactly the medical librarians at National Library of Medicine find  Issues in Law & Medicine passes that metric.

So what you say? Well, when lawmakers and anti-choice activists look to pass laws that restrict access to abortion and birth control they hope to find “scientific articles” to bolster their claims. This may help sway colleagues and it also may help when the law is appealed because if a journal appears in the National Library of Medicine index it has passed some kind of test of quality.

I’m not saying we should censor anyone, by all means publish what you want, but in my opinion scientifically objective doesn’t include titles such as Normal breast physiology: the reasons hormonal contraceptives and induced abortion increase breast-cancer risk or have an article that revels in North Carolina’s Woman’s Right to Know Act.

ABSTRACT: This article provides a comprehensive legislative history of North Carolina’s Woman’s Right to Know Act of 2011. The Act requires informed consent and a mandatory twenty-four hour waiting period for abortion, thus protecting a woman’s right to make an informed choice. Informed consent provisions and mandatory waiting periods give individuals making decisions the information and time necessary to make informed choices. The Act further provides that an ultrasound be performed and explained no less than four hours and no more than seventy-two hours before the abortion. The article first provides a brief overview of sources of legislative history recognized in North Carolina. It then details the history of the Woman’s Right to Know Act, from the first informed consent bill introduced in 1981, to the passage of the 201l law, and to the federal court case that followed. Finally it provides specific objections that were raised against the bill and responses to each. Legislators considering similar legislation need to be aware of the opposition they inevitably will encounter when passing such a bill. The author expects that this history and the ultimate success of North Carolina will encourage other states’ legislators and lawyers and give them the tools to make their case effectively.

Issues in law & medicine Journal Impact Factor on ResearchGate – Impact Factor Rankings (2013, 2014 and 2015). Available from: https://www.researchgate.net/journal/8756-8160_Issues_in_law_medicine [accessed Dec 30, 2015].

Join the Conversation


Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

  1. Dr. Gunter, did you consider posting comments via PubMed Commons on the abstracts for this journal’s papers? Those will be publicly visible to anyone who looks at any abstract with such a comment.

    1. Here in the good ole USofA, people don’t seem to think past the end of the day, let alone 9 months out. We don’t have “rational consumers of health care”—–if we don’t pay for their abortions now, then we will pay for their children for the next 18 years ( or more.). In fact, i don’t think we do pay for poor folks abortions because our laws prevent it; only those insured, and hence working, have their abortions paid for, I believe.
      The good news is, i went and read some of your blog and enjoyed it—esp the wild swimming part. I’ll subscribe and harass you there in the future.

      1. If we stop indexing pro-life journals, why not delist pro-choice journals as well? I don’t understand the logic of this post.

  2. Hang about! I take the point about the “smattering of antivax articles”, which may point towards an anti-science agenda, and I’ve not read this particular journal, but the thrust of this post seems to be that journals containing articles discussing the “person hood” of the fetus or the risks and epidemiological associations of abortion, put themselves beyond the pale.

    I’m not anti-abortion; I’m a gynaecologist who performs them. But the abortion debate is not over, even in academic circles. The philosophical status of the fetus, abortion regret, coerced abortion, the eugenic aspects of state funding, especially of prenatal screening for some but not all fetal abnormalities, are all valid topics for discussion.

    Sure the inverted commas around “Emergency Contraception.” give a clue to that authors attitude, and it might appear better to omit them. But inverted commas can indicate bias in the other direction. Take a look at this recent article from PLoS One.

    ‘This Is Real Misery’: Experiences of Women Denied Legal Abortion in Tunisia. 2015 Dec 18;10(12):e0145338. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0145338.

    It contains some distressing qualitative interviews with 13 women denied abortion. But the picture is complex. One woman was denied abortion at three weeks because it was too early, and later correctly diagnosed as having an ectopic pregnancy – good medicine. Another was being pressured into an abortion she didn’t want by her fiancee, and appears to have later been glad to have been turned away. A number of women were directed from government to private clinics, where they had to pay, but by all accounts got a much better service. So why place ‘This Is Real Misery’ in front of the title? I hope you’re not going to campaign for PLoS One to be dropped from PubMed.

    1. You do know that the journal is run by a group whose purpose is to get abortion illegal? Also, unable to find an editorial.board. But if the group that publishes has a stated agenda other than science how does it make the journal anything but propaganda?

    2. “gynaecologist” — I take it that you are British. Here in America, there is and has been a raging fight over abortion in the political arena for decades. I am pro-abortion. I support the free-speech quality of our library system, also. So it is hard for me to give any support to this “journal”, as i can see what the owners are trying to do—–they aren’t neutral scientists publishing the facts no matter where they lead. And this is what Dr. Gunter is worried about, also. This is probably clear in her writing if you know the back-story of abortion in America. I don’t know what it is in UK.

    3. JIMGTHORNTON: The PLoS title signals that the phrase between the inverted commas is a quotation. The use of inverted commas in the “Emergency Contraception” title is ironic, and signals that it is false, as in Military “Intelligence”. There is a long history in social sciences of using quotes in article titles, since informants often capture the essence of an issue nicely and succinctly in comments they make. These are completely different uses of quotation marks.

  3. The ‘Right to Know Act’ is right up there with other US euphemisms – if euphemism is the appropriate word – with ‘friendly fire’ and ‘enhanced interrogation’; they don’t mean anything like what they purport to.

  4. Well, I have to give them an A for subterfuge. This is a brilliant use of the Trojan Horse and something we should be on the lookout for in other places. “The United States National Library of Medicine, operated by the United States federal government, is the world’s largest medical library. ” That being the case, it is a library. Rather than getting into the censor mire, the librarians should make sure that other and legitimate information is also there.

%d bloggers like this: