None dare probe abortion clinics

clinic Once upon a time, reporters investigated the abortion industry. In 1978, the Chicago Sun-Times ran a week's worth of stories about unsafe conditions at local clinics. Two reporters and several representatives from the Better Government Association posed undercover. The result: two clinics closed down, a doctor's medical license was revoked, and a governor's task force about the clinics' practices was appointed. With one exception, today reporters don't examine the abortion industry; they have ceded the field to provocateurs and activists. Instead, reporters write summaries of investigations of the industry, an implicit acknowledgment of their largely passive role. (Granted, journalists don't investigate many industries, but in this case the lack of investigation raises, uh, questions. No industry in the United States over the last 35 years has killed more humans than the abortion industry.)

The result of this state of affairs are stories like this one by the Idaho Statesman. Reporter Sandra Forester wrote about a right-to-life student magazine at UCLA that investigated the racial practices at Planned Parenthood clinics. The story, though a bit unfair to Planned Parenthood, was valid and informative. It just highlighted the need for reporters to do their own digging again.

Forester's lede spiked readers' interests:

Planned Parenthood of Idaho officials apologized Wednesday for what they called an employee's "serious mistake" in encouraging a donation aimed at aborting black babies.

They also criticized The Advocate, a right-to-life student magazine at the University of California-Los Angeles, for trying to discredit Planned Parenthood employees in seven states in a series of tape-recorded phone calls last summer.

The call to Idaho came in July to Autumn Kersey, vice president of development and marketing for Planned Parenthood of Idaho.

The Statesman also produced a snippet of the conversation between the undercover investigator for the student magazine and the Planned Parenthood official. On a controversial issue such as abortion, giving readers as much unedited information as possible establishes trust with them.

One other relevant fact: taping a person secretly in Idaho is legal. Although Forester perhaps should have cited a source, she told readers that the student magazine had not broken a state law.

The story wasn't error free. In one instance, it showed slight unfairness toward Planned Parenthood:

The student editor-in-chief of The Advocate said she's not surprised by Planned Parenthood's response and that the unedited recordings speak for themselves. The activist students think Planned Parenthood targets minorities and minority neighborhoods.

The charge is serious. It deserved a response from a Planned Parenthood official, or a sentence explaining that the reporter contacted a representative but did not hear back.

Then again, reporters ought to start investigating the abortion industry again. Black unborn infants are aborted at a disproportionate rate. African-American religious groups have expressed alarm about this fact. Is the abortion industry targeting black unborn babies? Until reporters get into the clinics, they may never find out.

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