Simon does it again

baby and fingerStephanie Simon is the Los Angeles Times reporter who did such a great job a few months ago with that piece about what happens inside abortion clinics. In a lengthy feature published Saturday, she writes about Danielle, a woman who refuses an abortion after finding out her baby would be born without a brain. Simon spares few details about Danielle, who is pregnant with twins. Lee Jr. has problems while Leah is healthy.

Danielle had an abortion as a teenager but recently began going to church and decided to leave everything in God's hands. She is in a precarious financial situation and receives welfare. Her relationship with the babies' father is tenuous.

Simon writes about Danielle receiving emotional and physical support from a crisis pregnancy center that has a specialty for women carrying babies with terminal problems. It's right next door to George Tiller's clinic, famed for its third-trimester abortions.

The story gives proper weight to the role religion plays in Danielle's life. Simon writes about religion with her signature style, descriptive but spare. She allows people to speak for themselves without spinning their quotes one way or another. Lee Jr. died a few days after he was born. Simon gives immense respect to everyone in the story, including the young boy. Here's how she handles the funeral:

Lee's funeral was held two days before Christmas in the chapel at Broadway Mortuary. Wrapped in the angel blanket, the baby lay in a Moses basket, wearing a bib embroidered "Daddy's Boy." When Danielle bent to kiss him, she tucked a blue stuffed bunny at his feet.

"Dear friends," Pastor C.H. Hermon began, "we're gathered here in our grief to draw on the strength of the Lord."

Danielle looked over at Lee Sr. He was holding Leah, stroking her cheeks, and his face was soft with wonder. Their baby girl had come home from the hospital the night before the funeral. She was beautiful and absolutely content as she slept on her father's lap, her pink blanket a splash of warmth amid the black of mourning.

"God has a unique plan and purpose for every child that was conceived," Hermon was saying. "Our perfect God does not make mistakes. Let your comfort begin with that truth."

Lee put his arm around Danielle. Jonathan laid his head in her lap. Hermon read aloud from Psalm 23: "Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life."

Too many times reporters think of themselves as anthropologists or sociologists, obessively looking for grand meaning. And yet sometimes the best way to get at the grand meaning of life is to simply find an interesting story and tell it. You don't have to call up ethical experts, special interest groups or think tanks. You just write what happened as ethically and honestly as possible. Reporters who hope to improve their style or improve their ability to write fairly about controversial topics should observe her carefully.

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