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OB-GYN Fact-Checks New York Times ‘Sex Ed’ Quiz, Finds Numerous Errors

three to four-week old human embryo
Image CreditLunar Caustic / Flickr / CC BY 2.0, cropped

The New York Times published a ‘Sex Ed’ quiz on ‘key concepts every person should know in a post-Roe era’ that misinforms readers.

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On Thursday, The New York Times published a “Sex Ed” quiz on “key concepts every person should know in a post-Roe era.” It contained numerous pieces of false information about fertility, contraception, abortifacients, and more. Here are their answers fact-checked by an OB-GYN.

Question 1: Doctors generally start counting pregnancy from what point?

  • Fertilization.
  • Implantation.
  • The day a woman started her last menstrual period.
  • The last time a woman had intercourse.

This answer is correct.

Question 2: Can you count on a vasectomy being reversible?

  • Yes
  • No

This answer is correct.

Question 3: What’s the difference between an embryo and a fetus?

  • An embryo and a fetus are the same thing.
  • The embryonic stage is early in pregnancy — through about 10 weeks.
  • A fetus is created right when the egg is fertilized.

This answer is correct.

Question 4: When is sex most likely to result in pregnancy?

  • Shortly before or on the day of ovulation.
  • While a woman is on her period.
  • Shortly after a woman’s period ends.

This answer is correct.

Question 5: Is it still legal for a woman to get her tubes tied in America?

  • Yes.
  • No.

This answer is correct.

Question 6: What’s the difference between an abortion and a miscarriage?

  • Abortions involve pills or a surgical procedure; miscarriages resolve on their own.
  • Abortions are for unwanted pregnancies, miscarriages occur for wanted pregnancies.
  • Abortions are induced; miscarriages happen spontaneously.

This question has no correct answer listed.

In a miscarriage, the baby has spontaneously died. In an elective induced abortion, the baby is purposefully killed during the process of the abortion, since the purpose of every elective induced abortion is to produce a dead baby. That is the product that the abortionist is paid to produce.

A clear illustration of this fact is that, after viability, a “failed abortion” is when the baby is born alive. The separation of the mother from her fetus did not fail to occur. What “failed” is that the baby “failed” to die.

Both an elective induced abortion and a miscarriage can leave tissue left inside, which must be removed by a procedure known as a D&C (dilation and curettage). But doing a D&C for retained tissue is not an abortion.   

Question 7: Can a woman have a miscarriage and not know it?

  • Yes.
  • No.

This answer is correct.

Question 8: What is the most common cause of miscarriage?

  • Vigorous exercise.
  • Stress.
  • Random chromosomal abnormality.

This answer is correct.

Question 9: How soon can a woman typically find out if she’s pregnant?

  • Immediately after she has sex.
  • After her period is late.
  • A few days after having sex.

This answer is correct.

Question 10: What does Plan B do?

  • Prevents ovulation.
  • Kills sperm.
  • Causes an abortion.

This question also does not have the correct answer.

The correct answer is that the mechanism of action of Plan B depends on when in a woman’s cycle she takes the Plan B. If taken during her period or shortly after, the Plan B does nothing. If taken 4 days to 2 days before egg release, the Plan B can delay egg release.

If taken one day before egg release, the Plan B can interfere with the ability of the woman’s body to make progesterone at the correct time, thus can interfere with the development of the lining of her womb and inhibit implantation.

If taken after egg release, the Plan B doesn’t appear to do anything.

Question 11: Which of these is the most effective form of birth control?

  • Fertility awareness/natural family planning
  • An IUD
  • The Pill
  • Spermicide
  • Withdrawal
  • Condoms

This question also has debatable answers, depending on which study is looked at, whether the study is reporting “perfect use” or “normal use,” how obese a woman is, when the IUD was placed, etc. The top three for efficacy are IUD, the Pill (but depends on what formulation of pill), and fertility awareness. 

Spermicide alone, condoms alone, and withdrawal alone are much less effective.

Question 12: Which of these is the most effective form of male birth control?

  • The male birth control pill.
  • Condoms.
  • Women can control ejaculation in the body.

This question also does not have a correct answer, since the most effective form of male birth control is vasectomy.

Question 13: Does an abortion have to take place at an abortion clinic?

  • Yes.
  • No.

This answer is correct.

Question 14: What is an ectopic pregnancy?

  • When the fertilized egg implants outside the uterus.
  • When a fertilized egg is expelled from the womb and needs to be re-implanted.
  • Spontaneous loss of pregnancy before the 20th week.

This question itself is scientifically incorrect, as there is no such entity as a “fertilized egg.”  There exist sperm and there exist eggs. Once the sperm cell membrane and the egg cell membrane fuse (fertilization), then the entity created is a one-celled embryo called a “zygote.” 

That one-celled embryo becomes a two-celled embryo then a four-celled embryo, then continues dividing to become a blastocyst, which goes on to implant and grow into a fetus, a newborn, a toddler, and an adult, etc. It is one continuous existence.

An “ectopic pregnancy” is when the embryo implants anywhere other than inside the lining of the uterus.