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Abortion and the News Media - Part I

By Mike Wade
Published November 1, 1990

Three months ago something happened that could forever help us in our fight to see abortion abolished. The details of the incident are necessary to study in full, before we implement this new weapon in the effort to overturn legalized child killing in our nation. We will study a list of gaffes by the “pro-choice” media, then, in a future article, we will look at how this new found knowledge can help us in our efforts.

I say all of this to warn that our real concern should not be that we now have a weapon with which to bloody our political opponents – rather our concern should be how to effectively use this weapon without defiling ourselves and dishonoring the Lord. So just what is this so-called “weapon?” Something that could only be the result of prayer, and also something that we are sure to loose if we do not soon discover what has been literally dropped into our laps: The news media has admitted that it is biased against the pro-life movement. No, that’s not a typo or a glitch in our computer. I said, the news media has admitted that it is biased against the pro-life movement.

David Shaw, of the LA Times-Washington Post Service, wrote a two part editorial, that was printed in newspapers throughout the country, based on a comprehensive study by the LA Times of major newspaper, television and news magazine coverage. More than 100 interviews with journalists and with activists on both sides of the debate led the study to conclude that bias in favor of the pro-abortion side “often exists.”

Now, this is just one man writing about one study. But that it came from within the bowels of the very system itself should have pro-lifers dancing in their prison cells. What gives the study so much substance are the concrete, unavoidable examples that they cite. The following cases are not only helpful in pinning editors to a wall (in love), but perhaps even more valuable in training us what to look for in scrutinizing future news coverage.

Some of these inconsistencies cited by Shaw are the following:

Words are everything

One of the activists interviewed was Douglas Gould, former vice president for communications at Planned Parenthood of America. Says Gould: “The language is everything.” Comments Shaw: “In the abortion debate, the media’s language consistently embraces the rights of the woman.”

Shaw points out that, for some reason, pro-lifers have been much less successful than abortion rights advocates at feeding their terminology into common news media usage, especially since the Webster decision.

“With that decision, the long dormant abortion rights movement suddenly was energized anew. Membership and fundraising skyrocketed. Political activism blossomed. Courtship of the media began in earnest.”

Not that the media wasn’t biased before Webster. Semantics, labels and stereotypes have been around for a long time. In the abortion debate they somehow always work to favor abortion rights groups.

Abortion opponents are sometimes identified as Catholics (or fundamentalist Christians),” says Shaw, “Even when their religion is not demonstrably relevant to a given story; abortion rights advocates are rarely identified with religion. Abortion opponents are often described as ‘militant’ or ‘strident.’ Such characteristics are seldom used to describe abortion rights advocates, many of whom can also be militant or strident – or both.”

He cites the following examples:

And on and on. This painful list is not printed to make you feel sick, although that might be a fitting response. The value here lies in the categorization of instances of news media bias. This list should help you to identify future cases. Members of the press must be held accountable, and I don’t think any of us expect that to be done from within the institution itself.

How to go about using this new weapon will be the subject of the next article in this series.


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