Who's calling who a liar?

I am sorry to be returning to this topic -- the missing voices of the pro-life left -- so quickly. However, there's no way around it at the moment.

Trust me, I do realize that there are secular voices on the pro-life side, but even when you are dealing with a group like the Pro-Life Alliance of Gays and Lesbians, I have found that you are almost always dealing with lots of people whose views on this issues are rooted in science, law and faith. Religion is right in there, even on the pro-life left, in these debates over health-care reform and abortion.

So let's go to Google News and do a basic search or two, to take a quick look at how most mainstream journalists are framing the abortion questions in the health-care debates.

As I write this post, a Google News search for "Obama" and then for "It is a lie" will get you 494 hits in various forms of news sites.

This is, of course, a key phrase from the speech by President Barack Obama -- with the "lie" language aimed at critics who he believes are spreading misinformation about several health-care issues, including federal funding for abortion. This would, I noted earlier, mean that the liars include the U.S. Catholic bishops, Democrats for Life, Feminists for Life and other people who are not marching lock-step with the so-called Religious Right.

At the same time, if you search for "Obama" and then "you lie" -- as in, "You lie!" -- you will get 7,427 hits in Google News.

I guess reporters are more interested in Rep. Joe Wilson shouting "lie" at the president than they are the president calming aiming the word "lie" at a small, but strategic sub-group (right now, all sub-groups are strategic on the Democratic side of the aisle) in his own party. Oh, right, and don't forget the U.S. Catholic bishops.

Just an aside: I agree that Wilson was way out of line. Where did he think he was, the British Parliament? No, wait, members of parliament are not supposed to call people "liars." So would Obama be in trouble, too? Obviously, Wilson should have simply booed the president, since that was acceptable earlier this decade. But if you put "Bush," "boo" and "Democrats" into Google News you get a mere 120 hits, mostly on conservative news sites.

Note to Republicans: Boo next time. That approach is more civil.

Meanwhile, here inside the Beltway, a Washington Post website search this morning turned up five references to the "lie" angle in the Obama speech, mostly in transcripts -- not news stories or blog items. However a similar search for Wilson's "lie" outburst found 58 news items, if I counted right. I got tired to clicking through all the screens.

So this is a story, once again, of Obama and a united Democratic Party taking on the right-wing Republicans who really don't want health-care reform. That's it. That's all.

If you doubt me, check out this Los Angeles Times story, which ran under the headline, "Abortion foes aren't buying Obama's assurances -- They continue to campaign against healthcare reform, contending that federal money will go toward abortions if the president has his way."

Here's the top of the story:

President Obama, a supporter of reproductive rights, forcefully reiterated in his speech to Congress this week that his healthcare plan would not lead to government funding of abortion.

The trouble is, abortion foes don't believe him. They are working hard to persuade Americans that Obama is wrong -- and have even created ads that evoke "Harry and Louise," the fictional couple that helped tank the Clinton-era attempt at healthcare reform:

"They won't pay for my surgery," says an elderly man sitting at a kitchen table. "What are we going to do?"

"But honey, you can't live this way," says his wife, patting his arm.

"And to think that Planned Parenthood is included in the government-run health plan, and spending tax dollars on abortions," he replies. "They won't pay for my surgery, but we're forced to pay for abortions."

The ad, created by the Family Research Council, a conservative Christian group, ran for two weeks in August in five states (California not among them). The ad has been criticized by people on both sides of the healthcare debate as a simplistic and inflammatory depiction of the reform measures Congress is considering.

First of all, I thought the newspaper's style -- along with most of the outlets in mainstream news -- would say that the president is "pro-abortion rights," rather than the vague "reproductive rights." But I digress.

The Family Research Council is a player, no doubt about it, when it comes time to preaching to the choir on the right. But what influence will that organization and others in that wing of the anti-abortion movement have on Democrats? That's the question for journalists.

If you read the whole report, you will find a complete gap on the pro-life left -- although quoting someone at the Susan B. Anthony List came close to finding a note of balance.

LiarLiarThe story does attempt to quote people on both sides of the crucial question, which centers on whether it is possible to prevent government money from funding abortions without including a clear ban on this in the legislation. Once again, as Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) keeps saying, there needs to be a clear up-or-down vote on the Hyde Amendment (click here for background).

The problem, of course, is that Stupak is a Democrat and the story of the day is that Democrats are finding unity, in part because some fiscal Blue Dogs liked the tone of the speech and some liberals may be ready to compromise.

Yes, the Los Angeles Times did a separate story on that angle (as did lots of other newspapers). Read this story and search for signs that the pro-life Democrats exist and may have enough votes to force some clarity on this issue. Once again, the story is framed as Republicans vs. Democrats -- as if the GOP has the votes to stop this train in the House and stop a compromise in the Senate that the White House can live with.

Wait a minute, here's an interesting story:

Pro-life Democratic Congressman Bart Stupak has said he can block proposed health care reform legislation unless House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) allows a vote on a Hyde Amendment to the bill.

The Hyde Amendment, named after the late U.S. Rep. Henry Hyde (R-IL) prohibits taxpayer dollars from being used to pay for abortions. The current health care bill, H.R. 3200, is under fire for measures that allow federal funds to circumvent the Hyde Amendment and also mandate insurance coverage of abortion.

Rep. Stupak of Michigan claimed he has as many as 39 Democratic allies who could join Republicans to block the complete legislation from coming to a vote unless the House leadership allows a vote on a Hyde Amendment.

Drat! That a Catholic News Agency story. That isn't real news. That's the wrong kind of Democrat, the kind that tells lies.

NOTE: Before you click "comment," make sure you have URLs for your quotes and facts. And stick to the journalism side of this post, focusing on the lack of coverage of the pro-life left and the divides within the Democratic Party that threaten this legislation.

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