I think there should be mandatory jail sentences for those who publish bar charts and other graphs that show a misleading position as a result of selecting an incorrect base line or y-axis (usually, but not always, this should be zero).

Here’s a particularly egregious example from a publication that should know better, the Sunday Business Post.  It appeared in its 11th October 2015 edition.  Visually, the current minimum wage appears to be less than 20% of the living wage.  However it is in fact about 75% of it, and setting the y-axis to start at zero would have given the correct visual impression.

File 19-10-2015, 15 13 47 So why didn’t they do this?  Careless journalism, careless editing, lack of numeracy, or a deliberate wish to create a striking image where there was no justification for it?

The Sunday Business Post is in dishonourable company in this practice.  Here are two choice examples from Fox News in the United States, which of course has a political agenda to promote.

        Fox chart

Fox unemployment-rate

Rather than using a nonsensical bar chart, it would have been better had the Sunday Business Post not published it at all, and instead allowed the reader to draw the necessary information from published text.  However that would probably have gone against another apparent Sunday Business Post policy – that of using up lots of space with unnecessary (or unnecessarily large) photos and graphics.  Cheaper than actual journalism, I suppose.

 

Last month, US Secretary of State John Kerry received a letter from 55 members of the US Congress asking him to address what they see as the human rights violations of women in El Salvador.

Amnesty International explains the background:

El Salvador banned abortion in all circumstances in 1998….. Women and girls found guilty of having an abortion face a prison sentence of two to eight years. Health care providers who assist them face up to 12 years in prison….. Women who have had miscarriages have been charged with aggravated homicide, a charge which can bring a sentence of up to 50 years in prison. Amnesty International has documented the cases of many women who have been sentenced to decades in prison after having a miscarriage.

According to the BBC:

El Salvador is not the only country in Latin America to have such strict laws, but it is particularly strict in enforcing it. Doctors have to inform the authorities if they think a woman has tried to end her pregnancy. If they fail to report such cases, they, too, could face long sentences in jail. The result is what human rights groups are calling a criminalisation of miscarriages and medical emergencies.

San Salvador’s auxiliary Roman Catholic bishop Gregorio Rosa Chavez was quoted as saying: “Every human life is sacred. To get rid of that is committing murder. If there are two lives in danger, you have to save the one that’s most fragile and that’s the child”.

So El Salvador is being entirely logical in how it enshrines Roman Catholic theology (can that be the right word in to describe such a cruel policy?) in its civil law.

If I may repeat myself, even in Ireland we implicitly, and necessarily, recognise that the death of a foetus does not warrant the same legal protection as the death of a child or adult.  For otherwise our law would require that, every time a woman becomes pregnant but fails to deliver a live baby in due course, there would be a full and formal legal Inquest into the “death” of the “person” .   Under Irish law, an Inquest must be held if a coroner has reasonable cause to believe that a death occurred suddenly and/or from unknown causes.  That we don’t subject women to such a ridiculous process every time there is a miscarriage during a pregnancy demonstrates that even in Ireland we are prepared to accept that in practice a foetus does not warrant the same legal due process and protection as a fully formed human being.

I suspect that if we did follow the anti-abortionists’ logic and launch a full Inquest every time a woman suffered a miscarriage, just in case there had been some intent on her part to induce the miscarriage, or negligence in this regard, then we would see an uproar from all sane people, and Amnesty International and US politicians would be on our case with a vengeance.

But requiring an inquest in these circumstances would be the logical (but crazy) outcome of the call for the “unborn” to have the same legal rights as a child or adult. Sometimes those guilty of folly and cruelty need to be shown a reductio as absurdum to help change their mindset.

We are, one might surmise, less savage in our laws (or their implementation) than El Salvador is; but we are undoubtedly less consistent too. If we are to enshrine the doctrine of a particular religion in our laws, then why don’t we go the whole hog, just as Iran or Saudi Arabia do?