“Study Finds that the Press Often Favors Abortion Rights in its Coverage.” Not surprising, right? The liberal media push liberal causes. The mainstream media are well-known for being pro-abortion.
That was a headline in the Los Angeles Times. What might surprise you is that it is from a story published July 1, 1990. Nearly 30 years ago. How times haven’t changed.
The Media Faces Reality
The pro-life bills now working their way through various state legislatures have shocked and angered many in the mainstream media. The way the media cover the destruction of unborn lives is one of the few constants in our culture. Invariably the media give lots of respectful attention to the pro-choice movement. It doesn’t give adequate — fair — coverage to pro-life spokespersons, views or arguments.
Pro-Choice Media Explodes in Wrath
A few years ago, the Susan B. Komen foundation decided to stop giving Planned Parenthood about $700,000 a year. The foundation worked to cure breast cancer. The major media exploded in wrath.
“From the nightly news shows to print and online media,” the New York Times‘ Ross Douthat wrote, “the coverage’s tone alternated between wonder and outrage — wonder that anyone could possibly find Planned Parenthood even remotely controversial and outrage that the Komen foundation had ‘politicized’ the cause of women’s health.”
ABC News’ Claire Shipman declared “That ubiquitous pink ribbon … is sporting a black eye today.” MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell lectured Komen’s founder, Nancy Brinker: “I have to tell you, this is shocking to a lot of your longtime supporters. … How could this have taken place?”
On abortion, Douthat wrote, “the press’s prejudices are often absolute, its biases blatant and its blinders impenetrable. In many newsrooms and television studios across the country, Planned Parenthood is regarded as the equivalent of, well, the Komen foundation: an apolitical, high-minded and humanitarian institution whose work no rational person — and certainly no self-respecting woman — could possibly question or oppose.”
— David Mills
Now that eight states have banned abortion after an unborn child’s heartbeat is detected, the press is having to deal with the reality that elective abortion might well be on the ropes. The media elite not only accept abortion, most see it as necessary for empowerment and equality.
When the media interview pro-life spokespersons or present pro-life proposals, their hostility and disdain often are barely masked. But two things stand out in the current coverage.
First, 46 years after Roe, the media seem astounded that the pro-life movement is alive and well. They’re amazed anyone believes abortion is wrong. Wrong, and worth trying to end.
The sub-text of a lot of media coverage of the recent pro-life victories seems to be, “Who are these people? Where did they come from? And what’s wrong with them?”
Why can’t reporters treat the pro-life movement as a reasonable position the normal person might well hold? Why do they assume pro-lifers are fanatical, or uncaring or just Republican shills?
Because respecting pro-lifers would demand that the media question their basic worldview assumptions. Questioning the obvious goodness of legal abortion would, for them, be like questioning the notion of gravity.
Journalists should be thorough and fair. When their biases prevent an honest review of the facts, giving opponents a clear shot at real debate, and asking each side tough questions, they have failed. Their reaction to the new laws shows they failed.
The second thing that stands out is that when reporters interview people about abortion, they ask such predictable questions. Questions that invite pondering about “reproductive choice,” women’s rights, “anti-choice” efforts, how women need abortion, the hard cases and so forth.
They don’t ask questions that invite pondering about what goes on in abortion itself. The average reporter for the mainstream media doesn’t know there are questions to be asked. So we have to push them. Here are some questions journalists should be asking proponents of abortion-on-demand:
Does the unborn child have any value distinct from her mother?
Should the unborn child’s survival be a matter of her mother’s choice?
Why should we have pre-natal care if the fetus is merely a bunch of tissue? Doesn’t it impede a woman’s right to choose to tell her she shouldn’t drink, smoke or take drugs during pregnancy? After all, isn’t it just a fetus throughout the whole nine months?
Does an unborn child deserve anesthetic prior to being dismembered?
Should there by any limits on abortion? How about at eight months? Nine? How about minutes before the child is about to come out on the birthing table? Why or why not?
Do you believe it is ethical to conceive a fetus for the purpose of harvesting her organs? If not, why not?
If sexual intercourse is consensual, isn’t that the real reproductive choice, since intercourse can and often does result in a woman’s pregnancy?
Should women be allowed to abort their unborn child simply because it’s a boy or a girl? Or if the unborn child is perfectly healthy but has Down Syndrome or a missing hand or foot?
Do you know how the unborn child develops? How soon he or she begins to look like you or me?
Do you know exactly what happens in the typical abortion?
Are you troubled by the fact that there have been 60 million abortions since 1973? If so, why? If abortion is morally neutral or even a moral good for at least some women, why does the number of abortions bother you?
Other questions can and should be asked. But they probably won’t. Unless, perhaps, someone prods them.
So Prod Them
Send this list of questions to news editors, journalists, and interviewers in your area. And national news figures as well. Their contact information is available on their websites.
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I also urge pro-life politicians and pro-life leaders to ask these questions when they are cornered by journalists who want to portray them as heartless, anti-women bigots because they believe life is a beautiful, God-ordained thing. Only agree to answer their questions if they’ll answer yours. Make them look at the reality of abortion. That’s one thing they do not want to do.
The liberal media must be held accountable. And not just for the sake of the unborn. For their own sakes. They need someone to make them be good journalists. They help them be reporters, not propagandists.
You can send this list of questions to Rep. Chris Smith, chair of the Congressional Pro-Life Caucus and co-chair of the Trump Administration’s Pro-Life Coalition, and to Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.), head of the Senate Pro-Life Caucus:
Rob Schwarzwalder is a Senior Contributor at The Stream and a Senior Lecturer at Regent University. Raised in Washington State, he lived with his family in the suburban D.C. area for nearly 25 years until coming to Regent in the summer of 2016. Rob was Senior Vice-President at the Family Research Council for more than seven years, and previously served as chief-of-staff to two Members of Congress. He was also a communications and media aide to a U.S. Senator and senior speechwriter for the Hon. Tommy Thompson, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. For several years, he was Director of Communications at the National Association of Manufacturers. While on Capitol Hill, he served on the staffs of members of both Senate and House Armed Services Committees and the Senate Committee with oversight of federal healthcare policy.
Rob is focused on the intersection of theology, culture and politics. His background in public policy has been informed by his service on Capitol Hill, the private sector and various Christian ministries. His op-eds have been published in numerous national publications, ranging from TIME and U.S. News and World Report to Christianity Today, The Federalist and The Public Discourse, as well as scores of newspapers and opinion journals. He has been interviewed on National Public Radio, Fox News, and other leading television and radio programs. Rob’s scholarly publications include studies of such issues as fatherlessness, pornography, federal economic policy and national security.
Rob has done graduate work at George Washington University and holds an M.A. in theology from Western Seminary (Portland, Ore.) and an undergraduate degree from Biola University. He and his wife of 35 years, Valerie, make their home in Virginia Beach and have three children.