Pardon the interruption

grammyDylanSoyBombWhen I wrote about Linda Greenhouse's problematic story anticipating the Supreme Court arguments over a federal ban on partial-birth abortions, reader Mattk wondered why we would cover it here at GetReligion:

Is it because most of the people who oppose abortion are religious? Is it because there are so many Roman Catholics on the court? Is it because over the years Justice Scalia has put on some pounds and maybe he is a practicing glutton? What's the tie-in?

While abortion is not necessarily a religious issue, the coverage of the larger issue is riddled with religious ghosts. Many of the most ardent opponents of the practice are practicing Christians or religious adherents of another stripe. The questions surrounding abortion -- such as when life begins, when life begins to have value, how our legal system defines personhood, how society feels about sexuality apart from procreation -- all have a religious angle. That's why we discuss abortion coverage here. And, you'll note, many religion reporters include hot-button issues such as abortion on their beat.

The most interesting aspects of recent coverage include descriptions of the lack of exercise of judicial faculties and how the justices determined medical and health impacts. But there was also a law-breaking protester! Here's how Charles Lane of The Washington Post reported it:

The most dramatic moment of the morning came moments later, at about 10:40 a.m., when a loud voice cried out from the back of the courtroom.

"Abortion is the shedding of innocent blood!" shouted a man later identified by the court as Rives Miller Grogan, 40, of Los Angeles. He was immediately tackled and dragged out by Supreme Court police, who charged him with violating a federal law against disrupting court sessions, as well as with offenses related to resisting arrest.

Lane's article did a good job of characterizing the arguments, using neutral language and plenty of color. Linda Greenhouse's wrap-up for The New York Times was also very good, although she somehow didn't notice the protester. Maybe in her world abortion opponents aren't factual realities. Still, ignoring the protester was better than what Slate's Dahlia Lithwick did. She somehow heard the protester utter words that no one else heard and seemed a bit foggy about the whole event. Good reporting! Oh, did I mention her piece is headlined "Doctor, there's a lawyer in my womb"? and that Slate is owned by The Washington Post? Anyway, here's Lithwick:

For the first time in my eight years at the court, I watch as a spectator begins to shout, "Have you ever been a parent?" and something about Jesus and perishing, before he is tackled by court security and dragged out of the chambers. His screams can be heard for some time after he's been removed. It's quite distracting. I think from now on the court security guards should maybe carry Tasers.

Still, Lithwick reported a religious angle that no one else did. Apparently Planned Parenthood's Eve Gartner told the justices that how a woman "wants her fetus to undergo demise" is a "very personal moral/religious decision." Chief Justice John Roberts asked why decisions about the impact on the fetus were beyond the scope of things Congress can take into account. Interesting exchange.

Maybe I've been beaten down by decades of horrific abortion reporting, particularly with stories about partial-birth abortion laws, but these stories were not the worst I've seen.

The image, by the way, is of Dylan and his dancing protester of commercialism from a few Grammys ago.

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